I make mental resolutions every new year, but writing them down kind of solidifies them. This year I want to DO MORE of a lot of things, and I’m on track to do just that.
Pay off my debt: My Gap Year was amazing, but it did put me in some debt. I should be able to pay it off by the end of the 2016, probably even earlier, but I need to be smart about my spending—it’s really hard to pay off a credit card if you keep putting new things on it! (And that interest, ugh.) Especially since I have big plans this year that aren’t exactly cheap (see below) so I need to be frugal with everything else. At the moment I am considering two options: a personal loan, which theoretically should have a lower interest rate than my credit cards and would consolidate the bills, and/or a balance transfer card, which is, yes, another credit card but would have a 0% balance transfer rate and 0% interest for the first year or so. I’m looking into it. If you have suggestions, please let me know!
When last year was drawing to a close, I did not write a reflection post like I did in 2013 and I’m not entirely sure why. However, I did want to do one this year and can hopefully keep it consecutive with the years going forward. I think that taking time to look back on the year that’s gone by is an important part of looking forward to the new year ahead.
I’m going to start with some notes about 2014, since I did not reflect on it in writing last year and there are factors that affected my 2015 a great deal: 2014 was a year not unlike 2013, full of change—some forced and some of choice—and growth. I ended a relationship that had lasted almost a year, where my partner was emotionally unavailable and subtly mentally abusive. About six months after that, in August, I started a new, much more healthy relationship with my current partner, Rob. But in that same month I was also laid off from my job, after an incredibly rough year at the company. I was, thankfully, offered a few months severance. I also had stock, which I sold, and some savings, so I was okay financially. In September 2014 my great-aunt passed away and while it was a difficult time emotionally, she did leave me a small inheritance.
Thus, with my bank account fairly stable, I ended up being able to take what I refer to as my “Gap Year” from full-time employment. Between August 2014 and November 2015, I was technically unemployed, and this was mostly by choice. I did some freelance work, which coupled with all the aforementioned had enabled me to still live comfortably and afforded me the opportunity to travel without having to worry about taking vacation days. And seize this opportunity, I did!
This is a photo I took at Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic on my latest trip to Europe. It’s a chapel that’s decorated entirely in human bones, and it’s been on my bucket list since I first learned of its existence. It houses the bones of over 40,000 people.
I took over 800 photographs on my nearly 2-week long trip, and I have so much to say about the places I’ve visited that I’m not even sure where to start, as it’s been so long since I’ve blogged seriously. (Though, let’s be honest, I’ve never really blogged “seriously.”) I aim to try, though. (As per usual. Also #parentheticalstatementsareawesome)
So this is just a short update, enjoy the creepy photograph. High contrast black and white really brings out the texture of the skulls.
I’ve interestingly discovered a few days ago that I can qualify to apply for Italian citizenship, via my ancestry. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side were both born in Italy, and because Italy (and many other European countries) has a “jure sanguinis” law (also spelled “jus sanguinis”, Latin for “right of blood”) which allows you to claim citizenship based on an unbroken bloodline (meaning no renouncement or loss of Italian citizenship) between you and your Italian ancestors.
Words cannot tell you how excited I am about this prospect! I’ve always had future plans to move to Europe, and getting an Italian citizenship would also grant me EU citizenship, which would allow me to live & work in any EU countrywithout having to worry about Visas. (Hello, socialized healthcare!)
It seems like all I need to do is gather necessary documents proving my lineage to my Italian grandparents—this includes birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, divorce papers (if applicable), and other things from not only my grandparents but every generation between them and myself. So this will include my maternal grandparents and my parents. It will take me some months (maybe years, gasp!) to gather all the paper work, especially considering some of them will have to be ordered from Italy and all the American documents will have to be translated into Italian! And everything has to be notarized. Luckily for me, the Italian Consulate that is assigned to northern California is right here in San Francisco, so it won’t be an issue for me to bring my application there or to call and ask any questions I may have.
I’ve already called my grandma and she’s down to look through all her papers to see if she has any of these documents already. The first thing I need to figure out is whether or not my great-grandfather naturalized in the US before or after my grandmother’s birth. If it was after her birth, I’m good to go. If it was before, I’m shit out of luck.
Then, hopefully after successfully confirming I qualify, I’ll start with the birth certificates for my great-grandparents, ordered from Italy. This’ll be a fun process, right? Luckily there are other people on the internet who’ve done the same (here is one such example), and there’s lots of resources. I’m actually looking forward to researching everything, because it should teach me a lot about my mother’s side of the family.
For those worried this would interfere with my United States citizenship, it shouldn’t. I have absolutely no intentions to renounce my US citizen status and according to the research I’ve done that’s the only thing that should ever come up. Thus, this would allow me to have dual citizenship in both the US and Italy. Pretty awesome, I think.
One of my goals for 2014 is to go on a volunteer trip abroad. When I got back from my trip to NYC over the winter holidays we had a presentation on my first day back to work. It was from Surf for Life, an organization that gives back to developing communities where tourism is on the rise due to the surf (hence the name). They’ve worked with my company before, and a few of my team members have gone on trips with them last year and the year prior. After their presentation and a description of their projects this year, I was very excited to sign up.
This year, in April, I’ll be traveling to northern Nicaragua for a week with 10-11 coworkers to build an elementary school in a very rural area. Details on the project can be found here. Our sleeping accommodations don’t even include air conditioning! Our tasks will include mixing concrete by hand and brick-laying. It’s going to be quite an adventure.
As a volunteer we’re each required to raise $2,000 for the trip, so now starts the fun part of fundraising. Since my employer does charitable donation matching, I will be able to collect any donations myself and then give them to Surf for Life in my name in order to maximize all the contributions! Every little bit counts.Please consider donating to the cause and know that your gift, however small, will be doubled!
(If the Gofundme site does not work for you for whatever reason, I can also accept money via Paypal or SquareCash. Please contact me if that is the case!)