Friday, September 7, 2018

On Swiss Dental Adventures and the Ominious Taxpunktwert

I recently had all four of my wisdom teeth removed. It was a necessary operation - I've been having troubles with my teeth for a while. Overcrowded they have become difficult to keep clean and a few weeks ago I had an untimely, painful infection in one of the wisdom teeth. I had hoped to have the operation done earlier this summer but, because my chosen dentist had a low Taxpunktwert, I didn't have that much flexibility. So instead of taking advantage of my summer vacation to have the procedure I had to cancel my classes this week, have the procedure done on Monday night, and have spent an entire week recovering.

But let's talk a bit about that Taxpunktwert...

Discovering the Taxpunktwert system in Switzerland was an eye-opening experience. About 18 months ago I had the inconvenient experience of an emergency root canal. I was new to Switzerland, didn't have much confidence in my German skills, and, of course, I was in pain. A lot of it. So there I was, googling the English-speaking dentists that were close to the Hauptbahnhof. I methodically contacted each one until I found one that would see me the next day. The painful experience required multiple visits and multiple sets of fancy x-rays with fancy equipment. Clean, easy, perfectly located, efficient. Dentistry at its finest.

Also, it was expensive as fuck. I assumed that was par for the course. Compared to the work I had done in South Korea a few years ago it seemed natural that this Swiss efficiency would be more expensive.

But this time around, for my wisdom teeth, I didn't want to have to commute to the Hauptbahnhof. The idea of spending 15 minutes on the train with a bruised, swollen face trying not to cry, with ice packs on each of my cheeks didn't appeal to me. So I began looking for dentists near my flat. I found one, set up an appointment, and began discussing specifics. They would need x-rays, and fortunately I had an unnecessarily full set of them done for my tooth at the previous dentist. I would save money if I could get a copy of the old ones.So there I was, rifling through my paperwork, trying to understand why the previous dentist didn't have my name in their system when I saw this mysterious number, this Taxpunkt, at the bottom of the Rechnung. Everything had been multiplied by 3.50. Each individual Rechnung was the same, an itemized list of the procedures followed by this mysterious 3.50 number and a much larger total listed at the bottom. What was that all about?

A few hours, and one or two visits to the Leo Deutsch-English website, later I had discovered the Taxpunktwert system. Let me explain. In Switzerland dental operations and procedures are standardized and assigned Tariff points. Regardless of who the dentist is, the Tariff point is the same for a tooth removal, a root canal, or any other procedure (they also have Tariff points for dental hygiene procedures). At some point in the past a council of dentists (probably led by the magical Swiss Tooth Fairy) went through each procedure, labelled it, and assigned Tariff points.

But wait. If I'm a dentist in the middle of Zürich with a large, spacious office with all the modern amenities and a large multi-lingual staff, paying exorbitant Zürich-level rent, why should I pay the same as the small, family-run practice in L'Isle working out a large, renovated family-style home with only two staff members? Or even worse, what if my dental practice staffs multiple specialists in every field of dentistry that are available every day of the week and his practice only has one surgeon who comes in once a month? Why do we get the same money from our patients?

Thus, the Taxpunktwert system was born.

The Taxpunktwert is a number that a dental practice can assign to itself in order to offset the costs of running the business. The practice asks itself, what am I worth, and then sets that worth in the form of a Taxpunkt. If the dentist is a member of the Swiss dental association then he/she must stay under 5.80. A dental X-ray can cost CHF 15.40 (TPW 2.8) with one dentist, when another dentist charges CHF 27.20 (TPW 4.95) for the same.

As you can see, the Taxpunktwert for your dentist can have a profound impact on the costs of your procedure.

So here I was, sitting on the floor of my apartment surrounded by paperwork, shaking my head in annoyance. How had I not bothered to check that before? I frantically opened a new tab and checked the dentist I had agreed to meet for my wisdom tooth removal. I scrolled and scanned, getting more and more nervous, only to discover, to my shock, a Taxpunktwert of... 1.05.

1.05 compared to the 3.50 of my previous dentist. 1.05 compared to the maximum of 5.80.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief. The reason I was going through this paperwork, to understand why the first dentist couldn't find my previous x-rays, ended up being useless - I figured out that they had my maiden name on record, instead of my new name, but the copy of the x-rays they eventually gave me was a shitty quality JPEG uploaded to a CD and was useless for my new dentist. But ultimately I was content. I had a better understanding of the dental system in my new home. As someone who considers herself more of an immigrant than an expat (meaning I don't plan to go back to the states in a few years, like a typical Expat) this information is essential.

1.05 meant that if my Tariff point was 1,000 I would pay CHF 1,050 instead of the CHF 3,500 at my previous dentist (and the hypothetical CHF 5,800 at the most expensive dental practice in Switzerland). It turns out that the estimated Tariff points for my procedure is 1,858.83. Multiplied by a Taxpunktwert of 1.05, and with a few additional expenses for take-home medicine, I will have to pay a little less than CHF 2,000 to have all four of my wisdom teeth removed.

Feeling happy about my new dental practice, at some point I optimistically began looking through my Health Insurance information and discovered that the supplemental plan I had opted for included a benefit for wisdom teeth: the insurance will pay 50% of the cost of Wisdom tooth removal, with a limit of CHF 2,000. Everything worked out perfectly and, at the end of it all, I will be paying around CHF 1,000. To remove all four of my wisdom teeth.

Here I am today, recovering from the procedure. Everything went well, it took less than an hour to remove all four teeth - they, quite literally, just popped out. My pain has been manageable, the bruising has been minimal, and I haven't needed to constantly drug myself to get through the recovery (so far). Of course, when I grow confident to leave my flat - navigating the 5 flights of stairs in and out - to run errands, or confident enough to organize and clean, or crazy enough to even think about running or doing yoga or playing my flute, I end up with throbbing pain and have to relax with some ice packs on my face. But today is only day 4. I have the weekend to recover before I'm back to work on Monday morning.

All in all it has been a good experience so far. The Swiss bureaucracy is a little bit less confusing. My troublesome teeth are gone. And hopefully things will continue to heal without complications. Knock on wood. Ich drücke die Daumen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The process

Moving abroad a lot means a lot of paperwork. Lots of forms, visas, licenses, and anything in between. Many of these things require long, redundant checklists of documents from passport photos to copies of IDs and the inescapable processing fees.

One of the many direct benefits of life abroad for me? Organisation, better handwriting, thinking and working in advance, communication with bureaucrats, offices, and crabby people in many different languages. My tendency to procrastinate has been dissipating as well - because procrastination can mean late fees, missed opportunities, employment rejections, and denied visas.

So yeah - if you've talked to me lately I've been a mess, a bit of a stressed wreck to be honest, but I've also been processing, applying, and preparing all of the documents I need to complete my huge to-do list spanning from exiting Germany (replacing my stolen Führerschein, cancelling my health insurance, and vacating my old flat), returning to America (replacing my MN drivers license, getting new credit cards and debit cards, organising my possessions into neat little boxes, applying for my substitute teacher license, preparing for the paperwork involved in changing my name), and finally to entering Switzerland (filing my marriage preparation paperwork, filing my Family Reunion National Type D visa paperwork, researching health insurance, finding a flat, getting in touch with employers who had sent out job offers for when I get the visa, wedding prep!). 

Everyday the stress and anxiety gets a bit lighter as one more thing gets checked off my to-do list, soon it'll all be filed and all of the forms will be sent. I will be working as a sub in Brainerd and making money. And I can begin to relax and enjoy the dwindling number of days that I have left in America. 

Learning to live in the moment is a lifelong struggle for me. I'm still not sure how I will feel once I land in Zürich around the beginning of December. But all I can say is this - there's no better person in the world to be going along for this ride with than my fiancé, there's no better family to be supporting me in this crazy adventure that is my life than is mine, and there's no better time than today to jump in headfirst into this one-act that is life. 

We only get one shot, might as well make the most of it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

transcribed from my new journal


Zürich, Switzerland.

The last few weeks has been a whirlwind. The lowest lows mixed with the highest highs and everything in-between. Most recently has been the theft of my purse and with it my journal. I bought that journal in India and chronicled an amazing year in between its covers. In it I wrote of the complicated emotions in my head and heart, I captured snapshot glimpses of moments of my life from around the world. I found peace when I looked back on where I was, who I had been, and what compelled me to sit down and write on each day. I was drafting ideas for short stories, writing the first drafts of blogposts, and exploring myself and my life one line at at time.

I don't care about the inconvenience of losing my wallet (with it all of my credit cards, my debit card, Deutsches führerschein, Versicherungskarte, everything really). I can replace the bag, the coffee thermos, the books, the headphones. But I can't replace that journal. A year of my life has been taken from me by some con artists looking for a quick dollar - a free meal - I don't know what else. Well the joke is on them, because I had almost no money. At that moment in time all of the money to my name was in that wallet and comprised of a pathetic 50 franc bill and some loose change.

To the two guys that did it - I have no sympathy for you. I'm not going to lie and say here that I'm sorry you're in a position in your life that drove you to do this. I'm not going to create some fake aura of empathy and understanding.

That's not how this works.

If you read that journal in that bag with the pathetic amount of money in it, you would see that I , too, have fallen on some hard times. I hit what I thought was rock bottom last year only to be surprised on a few more occasions that there was a lower place in which I could sink.

I've been desperate, unemployed, and without a home. I've wondered what will happen in the next days, hours, moments in time in a future I could hardly fathom.

But you, you took the easy way out. I'm sure we were an easy target. A young couple fresh from announcing our engagement to half of my new family. our guards lowered as we sat there - huddled close together, laughing at private jokes, and playing a game on one cell phone pass back and forth with giggles and happiness.

I've been making myself sick considering all of the things I did on that train differently than I usually do:

  • putting my wallet into a purse, instead of keeping it in my pack
  • grabbing a handful of the most important things from a suitcase and putting them all in one place
  • putting that purse above my head, in the overhead compartment, slightly behind my head and out of my peripheral vision
  • consciously moving my journal from my pack into this new purse, despite having already packed it away
I've found myself dwelling on what I consider to be my mistakes when the fact of the matter is this was not my fault. 

V is right - you can't anticipate everything all of the time. You can't blame yourself for the actions of others, especially when the mere concept of those actions are so hard for you to fathom and understand. 

So now I need only to resist the urge to blame myself. Stop thinking the twisted thought that this is somehow karma stepping in and slapping me across the face for letting myself be so happy. I was depressed and scared for so long that to be struck with the happiness and joy that is the idea of marrying and living with V that maybe it was not fair. Maybe I needed to be torn down in order for everything to be evened out - for equilibrium to be reached. 

But no, these are the thoughts that I need to avoid. I deserve to be happy just as much as the next person. I've worked hard and dedicated myself to a future here, in Switzerland, with the man I love. I'm not fated to have something bad happen to me every time I celebrate something good. No. 

That's just not how this works. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Painful Truth - on fear and anxiety

It's been hard to share a blogpost for the last few months for a variety of different reasons. The most honest, heart-wrenching, and painful reason is this:

My german visa has been denied. Again. For the second time. For the same reason. Despite the arguments by my language school that their requirements are not true, that I'm not required to be held to the standards that they are holding me to because I'm an english teacher in the free market, not a government subsidised german teacher for integration courses for the refugees. I have two job offers, I've been paying into the german insurance system since March, and I have a flat sorted out that is definitely large enough, in a good part of the city, and with two roommates who are both stable and chill.

But despite my efforts the visa continues to be denied. I keep getting told no and now, well, now I need to leave the Schengen zone. The reason for that is pretty simple. I was in Germany on a tourist visa, which lasts for 90 days. I was lucky enough to get an extension on that visa since my work visa was being processed, but when I left Germany to go to my job in Switzerland I officially terminated that visa extension. On June 25th my tourist visa officially expired and my Swiss work visa began. As an American I'm allowed to be in the Schengen zone with no problems for 90 out of every 180 days. That math is clear - 3 months in, 3 months out. When I leave Switzerland on August 24th I still have one month left of my 3 month sentence.

Fortunately I'm able to come home. I found a dirt cheap flight out of the UK into Chicago, which is pretty much close enough to home, I'll be able to manage from there. My credit card has enough room, barely, for the flight, and hopefully I'll be able to find some work with friends cleaning and babysitting (or teaching flute lessons, what, a girl can dream) in order to pay for the flight back.

To be honest though, that's not the heart-wrenching and painful reason. I don't mind that things are complicated. I don't mind that my visa is being denied. I don't mind that I'm spending all of my money, spending all of my time waiting in a nausea-inducing sense of fear.

No, this is all okay as long as there is actually a chance that I'll get the visa! I can be patient if I know that X, Y, or Z is happening and that eventually I'll get to start working.

But right now I don't have that stability. I don't have anything. Germany was my best chance and it's falling apart. So now here I am, sitting at a Universität in Zürich, frantically applying for jobs (any job) in the hopes that something will work out. Here I am, willing to do anything to get a visa to be able to stay here. I'm not living the dream anymore, this is definitely a living nightmare.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that my friends and family have seen me posting pictures of when I got to go flying, of hiking Le Dents du Midi, of sitting at the Cabane du Susanfe with my feet up against the wall. But let me tell you a truth about all of this: in Switzerland it's free to hike. The money that I pay to travel to these places to hike or fly or climb is less than I would pay to stay in the city. My fabulous boyfriend has the gear I need when we climb, I own my own pack, my hiking shoes. My body is healthy and I take every chance I can to get out into these mountains because it's beautiful, I don't know how much time I have left here, and I legally can not do any sort of work. At all. No, I'm not just being lazy. No, it's not that I just haven't applied for the jobs. Maybe I just don't want to work at all... NO that's not it either. The problem is one of bureaucracy, paperwork, and a reliance on people who are just as susceptible to having a bad day, a crabby day, or a lazy day at the office, as anyone else. The only difference is my life is in their hands, not just my coffee or meal.

This has been the most enlightening experience for me because I never understood what it meant to try to assimilate into a new country. I've never learned firsthand about the trials that you have to go through just to get a job. I had no idea. Even when I went to Korea. Sure there was a lot of paperwork, a lot of unnecessary hoops to jump through, but in the end it was always clear. Do this, do that, finish your checklist and boom you're done.

It's not like that here. Everyday I live with the constant uneasy sense of dread that I'm going to either run out of money or run out of time or both. Let me tell you, that's not a good feeling when your boyfriend lives in this country. When the friends you've been cultivating here, the home you have established for yourself here, is all about to be pulled away. I've finished my checklist, on paper I have all of the things that anyone ever said I would need for the job - and the end result is the same: X.

I think the worst thing for me is knowing that I have a Master's degree, that I have an internationally recognized teaching certification, that I have the experience, the willingness, and the drive. That even with all of my hard-work, everything that I have worked to make for myself, I'm scrambling and willing to take even the most demeaning of jobs. I don't even care anymore, I was a janitor for one summer and I would absolutely do it again if it meant that I could have a stable home, that I could begin playing my flute with regularity again, if I could begin to pursue that which I have trained my entire life for: flute teaching and performance.

With every denied visa is a feeling that you are worthless. With every passive aggressive demand for you to get a job already is a feeling that the world thinks you're lazy and undeserving. With every day passed of an interview being stopped short because you don't have a work visa already, or being told not to even bother to come in if you aren't from country X, Y, or Z, or no response at all. Well, it's hard not to start to internalize that negativity.

This is the post I've been avoiding. Not because I want the world to believe that my life is rainbows and butterflies, but because I don't want to admit that I'm floundering. I don't want to have to vocalize my fear that I really might not be good enough. My fingers are flying over this keyboard because I've needed to just say it, tell these thoughts, these worries, for a long time, but my mind is hesitant when it comes to hitting that big orange Publish button.

Everything that I have is invested in this. The last few years of my life have been leading me here. I have opportunities lined up, schools that I can begin to work with, friends to turn to for advice. I'm so happy here and that makes me feel so sad. For each day that I feel like I'm finally in the right place comes a day where I'm terrified that that place is about to be torn away.

I know that someday I'll look back at this time and it won't seem like such a big deal. Someday I can look back on this and smile, knowing that if I can get through feeling like I hit rock bottom (and having the government constantly reaffirming that sensation) that I can really do anything. But damn, it's going to be hard getting out of this one.

There, that's what I've been feeling the last few weeks. That's why I haven't been posting about all of the good stuff going on - my mind has been so absorbed with these fears that I can't allow myself to enjoy the thoughts of the good things I've been doing whenever I sit down at the computer. Maybe now I'll be able to enjoy the good things. Maybe now after getting rid of the negative thoughts things will work my way.

But who knows. All I can do is put one foot in front of the other.

One step at a time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On the Wearing of Many Different Hats

So far my German adventure hasn't quite gone as planned. To cut a long story short I've basically gotten everything lined up for a successful life here but I'm being held back by some bureaucratic nonsense. But once they figure out what type of visa I'm actually applying for and realize that all of the boxes are already checked, then they'll green light me to start working. Fortunately I have a summer position already lined up (starting next week!) in Leysin, Switzerland. I've also applied for a position in the public schools of Switzerland starting in the fall and I've been in a bit of contact with the director of the program for that so I'm optimistic there as well.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post. On hats, the different types of hats in my closet and how I'm learning to sew them all together.

I don't remember when I first heard someone use this expression - it seems a bit odd in retrospect. What does a hat have to do with anything? Well, the idea is that for each hat that you have, it's another skill set. So when I'm wearing my music hat I'm teaching the flute, my english hat has me in front of a language classroom, my pool hat is more of a beanie and belongs in the pool hall. You get the drift.

The thing that I have ben consciously recognizing and focusing on lately is this: I have many hats and I wear them all with ease. I have a lot to offer a future employer and, thanks to the way my parents raised me, I have the work ethic and dedication to really make an impact on the work environment that I find myself in. I'm comfortable in a wide range of atmospheres - from the bar and pool hall to the concert stage, from America to South Korea, teaching children to teaching adults. Somewhere along the way I've picked up the flexibility, empathy, and compassion that are necessary for the type of worldly travel and living that I've immersed myself in.

The problem is not that I'm lazy, unqualified, and unmotivated. The problem is that my unique skill sets does not fit neatly into one specific box. Going hand in hand with that is my general unwillingness to settle for a lifestyle that I don't find myself content with.

That is not to say I have some sort of irrational concept of the perfect life that is holding me back from settling down in one place or another. I'm more than happy to compromise and focus my talents and skills into one specific area. The end goal, of course, is always a life of music alone - education, performance, etc. Yet along the way I'm more than happy to pursue something else for a while.

The thing is, if I'm going to settle in one area of my life I need to have something really positive going on in another area. As I get older and meet new people, learn about new cultures, and struggle with the day to day demands of living (not travelling) abroad, I'm starting to fine tune what those important things are. I need to take one part of each hat, the size and shape directly proportionate to the influence of that pursuit on my life, and sew them together. The end result will be an ugly mess of a thing (especially considering I am grossly incompetent when it comes to sewing) and to many people will not be desired at all. But it will make me happy, it will be my life not theirs, and how I feel about it is the important thing.

This post is simply a public reminder to myself that having a closet full of different hats isn't a bad thing. Even if general society and cultural norms likes to make you believe that it is. There's nothing wrong with having a large range of interests, skills, and purposes in your life. It's all about finding the balance, being honest with (and eventually true to) yourself, and letting yourself experiment along the way.

Who knows where you will end up, the journey is the important part.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Escape Strategy

Everyone needs an escape strategy. Whether it's something you have consciously constructed or your natural impulse, you should have one. How do you shed the rain cloud of loneliness? What do you do when you begin to feel blue? When you know that you have so much going for you, that you are in the place of your dreams and that you should enjoy it with its ups and downs equally. How do you remind yourself of your truth, of your reality, of your happiness?

We all just need to experiment and find an exit strategy out of that rain cloud. Maybe yours is to simply be sad, soak up all of the implications and complications of that feeling for a day, and then wring your body clean of the emotion like a damp rag. But dwelling in it doesn't work for me. Instead here are some of the strategies I've come up with to help get my mindset back on track.

1.)  Do you throw yourself deeper into your work? 
- Try this once. When your focus begins to get a bit foggy, when you are so distracted by the negatives that you enter a tunnel where your happiness is blurred in a circle around the tunnel vision, throw yourself into your passion. Your work.  Remind yourself why you do what you do, not just for the paycheck. Or perhaps your work is just for the paycheck. There's nothing wrong with that either. But throw yourself into whatever it is in your life that you look forward to doing. For me that's the music. When I hit that tunnel vision I eventually encounter a sign reminding me to follow the music. I refresh my practice schedule, remind myself why it is that I'm in this place. Why am I here, pursuing this elusive dream? Whatever that dream is, whatever your reasons are, renew your passion for it and see where that leads. 

2.) How about food. What do you eat? 
- This is key for me as well. As someone who can no longer deny the food sensitivities in her life, I can attest to the power of what we put in our bodies. Have you been living off of the same pasta dish? Oatmeal? Or are you mindlessly overindulging in the easily obtained snacks, salty treats, and sugary confections that lay in the discount aisle of the grocery store? Maybe you are eating healthy - but you eat the same hard boiled egg for breakfast each morning, the same chicken and vegetable lunch, followed by an identical pasta dish each night. Day after day. Sure, your wallet might be happy but are you? Try to reassess what you are putting into your body, ask yourself if this makes you happy (truly happy, not just in the moment pleased with the deliciousness of that cake but in the next moment feeling bloated and bogged down by the sugar). Don't mindlessly eat, think about why you want to put that food item in your belly. 

3.) You're feeling stressed or down? Let's have a girls night!
- It's the freaking weekend, I'll drink to that! Have you been letting your negative feelings manifest into late nights out drowning your worries in drinks? Maybe you're not getting black out drunk each night, maybe you're not what 'they' would call an alcoholic. But are you letting yourself focus on frivolous outings with friends and alcoholic beverages distract you from some truth that you are feeling? Be honest with yourself. Sometimes you do just need to lighten up and go out with friends, and sometimes you need to realize that you're not lightening up, rather that you are throwing on your rose tinted glasses and becoming numb to the truth for a little while. Honesty is always the policy. If you can't be honest with yourself about why you are drinking (or doing anything, for that matter) than how can you expect yourself to get out of this hard place? 

4.) It seems that 'they' say to exercise more... let's hit the gym!
- This is a biggie for me as well. Have you been ignoring your body? Please don't give me any of that Cartesian nonsense. I honestly believe that Descartes' mind-body dualism has radically changed the Western mindset in a negative and unhealthy way. You want to believe that the mind and the body are truly separate? Okay, tell me that next time you have a migraine so bad you are throwing up every few minutes and your vision is blurring and fading to black. Tell me how clear and concise your thoughts are then. No, instead of blindly following the man your intro to philosophy class heralded (I think therefore I am!) remind yourself that your body carries your mind. Maybe your negativity and pessimism is resulting from inactivity and decay. I'm 26 years old, am I done growing and starting to die already? Didn't I read that somewhere?! What am I going to do? Snap out of it. Go for a run, perfect a new yoga asana, hit a new PR in the gym, or maybe get into doing the aerial acrobatics that you've always secretly wanted to try. Why wait?

5.) Be honest with yourself. Have you started that journal yet? 
- One of the best habits I've made since moving abroad was beginning a journal. Journal - the adult word for diary. You can make it however you want. Maybe each morning you'll wake up and write one word, the first thought in your head. Or maybe you'll write exhaustively what happened to you each day. For me I like to write on the page when the thoughts in my head are so convoluted that I'm confused and uncertain about how I even feel. Just start writing, don't tell me you don't know what you want to say, trust me, you will. Sometimes we vent to our friends about a problem and then, before our friends can even respond, we realize that we have already discovered the solution. Give your friend a break once in a while and try to just hash it out on the page. Maybe you'll learn something new about yourself, your relationships, and your feelings. 

Feeling down, stressed, lonely, and unhappy is a natural and unavoidable aspect of being human. We are social creatures and sometimes we long for some sort of external approval or sign that we are on the right track. But I don't think we need to rely on others, I think we can find a way to remind ourselves every day that we are doing what is best for us. These are just some of the things that I like to focus on when I start to feel blue. Blue, my favorite color and also one of my favorite songs (check our Regina Spektor's Blue if you don't know it yet), and yet one of my least favorite emotional states. What metaphorical umbrella do you use to keep out of the rain?  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

An honest reflection

I've nearly reached the three month point of my stay here in Europe. 3 months will be exactly on June 4th. I know that because that's the date I've been fixated on, stressing about, and getting myself all worked up over.

You see, I'm currently here on a Schengen tourist visa. I have already obtained my work visa for Switzerland this summer, but that does not begin until June 25th. The tourist visa lasts for *only* 90 days, and June 4th is my last official day of that visa. I have already submitted all of the necessary paperwork, obtained the jobs, and found a place to live. But unfortunately for me the Arbeit Agentur (work agency) is taking forever to respond to my request. Until they give the thumbs up on me being able to take an English teaching position in this country, there's nothing I (or the visa office here in Leinfelden) can do.

For the first few weeks that wasn't a problem - I was taking a German class that was sucking up all of my time and energy. But a few weeks ago that course ended. I was able to fly home for an unexpected mother's day / birthday / parent's anniversary celebration and also go to Switzerland for a long weekend. But even with these positive things happening, even though I'm in a place that I'm excited to be in, living in a great flat with good roommates, and able to visit my boyfriend more often than ever before (other than when we lived in the Laramie together, which seems like ages ago) I've been slipping into a depressed lull.

No work visa means no job. No job means no new money coming in. No new money coming in means living off of my savings. And living off of my savings means that they will eventually (read: NOW) be depleted. So rather than enjoy myself, I've been dwelling on the eventual lack of money and resources that is coming.

I've been fixated on my student loans, my ridiculously high insurance premium, my rent and food. And as everyone knows, focusing entirely on financial things (especially when, well, you know, you don't have much money to begin with) can become a black hole of despair and depression.

So rather than feeling proud of myself for making it to where I am, I have been focusing on the few things that I can't control.

I'm proud, and at the same time a little ashamed that it took this long, to say that as of today enough is enough. I've decided to start training for a 10k next spring, I want to do the race in under 56 minutes. I've decided to take advantage of this time of unemployment with a much more intense and serious flute practice schedule. This is basically the time that I've been dreaming of since I finished my Master's - essentially free time that I can devote to all of the things I want to work on with my flute. That means an extremely in depth study of the traditional excerpts for audition lists, a focus on Telemann Fantasies and the tonal and articulation issues that I have with music in that register. Here is my chance to explore and grow without feeling bad for taking time away from something else.

I literally have nothing else!

It's time to finish my website, write up my studio and parent contracts for future students, and reach out to my contact who is going to introduce me to some of the conductors in the area.

Rather than fearing how I'm going to make my money in the immediate future I'm going to pursue the future that I really want - an orchestra career and a thriving flute studio. That all starts with a return to the basics. Long tones, scales, articulation. Everything that I know and love.

It is a bit frustrating how often I swing back and forth from serious study to distraction. I'm sure my old teachers, some family members, and friends are probably tired of hearing this. But I think that I just need to embrace that this is the way I get sometimes.

So now the things that I can control - my physical fitness, the food I eat, what I do with all of this spare time - these are the things that I'm going to focus on. No more depressed focus on the fact that my work visa hasn't arrived. In a few weeks I'll be working in Switzerland and getting a consistent pay check for the summer. I'm not going to end up homeless. Not yet, anyways.

Now with the beautiful weather of early summer arriving, so too will my refreshed perspective. And with that perhaps I can expect more success in the arena that is of utmost importance to me: music.