Things I Learned In 2018

Hey friends! Happy New Year.

I'm a little late on my annual round-up. We've been traveling pretty nonstop for the last three weeks. The holidays were great, but it's so nice to be back in the regular work/school rhythm. Opened up my trusty laptop this morning and it was like, Ahhhhh, hello, old friend.

So, without further ado, here are a few

Things I Learned in 2018

1. Just when you think you’re settled...things change. When I first wrote this list two years ago, we were living in Portland. Last year, Boston. Now, Basel. Hoping we can stay in place for a year or two (or ten) before moving again. It's been a whirlwind few years.

2. Raise your kids with a spiritual upbringing they don’t have to unlearn. THIS IS EVERYTHING. 

3. Living among expats is like being a freshman in the dorms again. You’re all clueless, brand-new, thousands of miles from anyone you know and love, and eager to make new friends. The openness is refreshing. Might we always be so candid and receptive. 

4. The hummus and guacamole here are not as good as in the US. I miss Mexican food terribly. Don't take yours for granted. 

5. Yoga is a sanctuary for spiritual refugees: folks whose childhood religions didn’t welcome them as they were. It's that rare social location where queer folks and women lead from the center, not the margins. For all my criticism of the yoga industrial complex, this is a not-inconsequential success. Go team yoga.

6. Practice music. I’ve picked up my trumpet again after 20ish years away. We have a new piano. I try to sit down for a few minutes every day. It’s such a good way to get back into my breath and out of my head.

7. WhatsApp and Marco Polo are essential for free international communication. (Hit me up if you're there, too. I'm on with my Swiss mobile, and would love to spam you with videos of us in our pajamas speaking in helium and robot voices.)

8. It’s never too late to finish what you started. Masters Degree, check. 

9. Learn a new language. DuoLingo is by far the winning language app so far (thanks to Spanish teacher buddy Melissa for the recommendation). Movies with subtitles are surprisingly helpful, too. Mostly, be sure to learn how to say "Excuse me" and "I'm sorry, I don't speak [fill in the language]" in whatever language you're faking your way through. It's a start.

10. Teaching doesn’t have to happen in a studio. Or just maaaaaybe your living room becomes a global studio. Stay tuned.

11. I really love interviewing and writing about artists and activists and authors. Their books. Their art. Their passion projects. Highlighting their work. I've got 5 or 6 new profiles/articles like this coming around the bend that I cannot wait to share with you. 

12. The Swiss take garbage and recycling seriously. Figuring out what kind of bottles go where is basically a part-time job here. It's a Byzantine system that we've finally almost tackled. Ready to add it to my resume.

13. Gurus continue to fall. Yoga teachers, for sure. (Pattabhi Jois, anyone?) The open secret of sexual abuse continues to be unmasked. But this year, in the Buddhist world especially. Gone is the notion of an enlightened master teacher. Here to stay is the reminder that we can't put anyone on a pedestal, ever again.

14. It’s super easy to make Thai and Indian curries at home. Not in a legit, from-scratch kind of way. But in a 5-minute "frozen veggies + jar of sauce + crockpot = dinner" kind of way. Keep a container of already-cooked quinoa in the fridge and you're ready to rock.

15. Moving consumes a lot of time and energy. Logistics are a time-suck. We moved August 23rd, and it has truly taken these first four months just to get shit in order. To order a bed for my kid, find a dish strainer, figure out how to pay Swiss bills, all of it. I am just now feeling like the creative space I'd expected to have immediately in September is mine for actual work and not just for "taking care of irksome moving logistics" kind of shit. Amen and hallelujah.

16. Culture develops according to geography. A December cultural introduction event for expats called "Typically Swiss" taught me this. The facilitator — an ebullient American woman from Queens named Kathy who's lived here for 36 years — explained that, to understand why the Swiss are so stereotypically reserved, hard-working, independent, etc., we should take a look at the geography and climate in which the culture has emerged. Those Alps? The long, hard, snowy winters? Their unrelenting cold and the difficulty of pre-car transport? They cultivated a nation of people who HAD to be hard-working, no-bullshit, and self-sufficient. It was such an "aha" moment. I have so much more compassion for those national traits after learning to see through this lens. The sociologist in me loves it.

17. Even if you’re vegan, you've gotta try fondue and raclette at least once. Cheese and chocolate are basically the Swiss national foods. So "when in Rome," you know? Stoked to try out a few new vegan fondue recipes in the new year.

18. It costs $70 to send a small package from Nebraska to Switzerland. Yowch. Sorry, Mom.

19. Building resilience takes guts and no small amount of fear. Try being 4 years old and having to (literally) dive into swimming lessons in an unfamiliar pool, learning in a language you don’t understand, amongst a teacher and fellow students with whom you can't communicate. So proud of my brave boy. We talk daily about how tackling the hard stuff means we're building our patience and resilience muscles. This transition hasn't always been easy, but some aspects (like his amazing international school) have made it an unexpected joy.

20. Parenting is so much easier when your kid is in someone else’s care from 8am-3pm. Like, a gazillion times easier. I’m afraid of pissing people off by saying this out loud. But as a parent who’s always alternated childcare with my husband by working nights and weekends while parenting my kid during the daytime (and vice versa for the hubs), ohmigod is it easier when someone else takes over for the majority of the day. Ohmigod.

21. The food in Barcelona is better than the food in Basel. By far.

22. Walk. Just walk. Walk to the post office. Walk to the dry cleaner. Just walk.

23. Take a Sunday savasana. Swiss shops all close on Sundays. If you need a cup of almond milk for pancakes or fancy knocking out your home improvement list at IKEA on a Sunday afternoon, you're outta luck. There's a reason the quality of life is so high here. People hike instead of going shopping. They get outside. With hiking poles. DO NOT FORGET THE TREKKING POLES.

24. You can cut back on asana and be totally fine. Healthier, even. I'm practicing 3-4 times a week, and my once-achy hips feel better than ever.

25. Swiss movies have an intermission, also known as a smoke break. Whoa.

26. Cook at home. I know I mentioned this last year, and the year before, but the realization really sunk in when we moved here and learned that for the three of us to go out for even the simplest of dinners, it costs $100 minimum. Hello, high cost of living! There is no such thing as cheap food here. You go to Italy for that. The upside of this bummer reality is that we are cooking at home a million times more than in the past. And it feels great. 

27. Chickpea pasta for the win. Didn't think I could top lentil noodles, but friends: these are fabulous. Highly recommend.

28. Church clarity is essential. Don't go to a church that isn't totally up-front about whether they affirm LGBTQ folks and allow women in full leadership. And by "affirm," I mean not just say they "welcome and love" everyone, but that they are happy to marry same-sex folks and call a woman or a queer person as a senior pastor. Follow Church Clarity for more on this. I love their work.

29. On that note: don’t take your church for granted. We desperately miss Cambridge's Harvard Memorial and Portland's First Unitarian, and the inspired, intelligent, diverse, progressive spiritual leadership and fellowship they offer.

30. Most yoga history that’s taught in teacher trainings is incomplete, ill-informed, or flat-out lying. In 2019, we've gotta change this. Start by hiring contemporary scholars who know a thing or two about power imbalances, sociology, gender, trauma sensitivity, #MeToo, and more. (Like moi!) Hit me up.

31. Gun control is amazing.
It’s such a relief to not have constant subconscious anxiety about a mass shooting. I'm not joking when I say this is one of the main reasons we left the US. No lockdown drills for this wee babe of mine.

32. Boston was great for children's theater, and musical theater in general. We miss that, too.

33. It’s lovely not to get piles of snow. Basel is so temperate. It snows maybe once a year. But you can drive two hours and be in the Alps. Heaven.

34. Speaking of: ski culture is a THING. I grew up on the Great Plains. I know jack shit about skiing. My kid, on the other hand, is going to be a goddamned Olympian. The ski culture here is for real. Learning so much. Beginner's mind all the way.

35. Be spiritually ruthless. Don't be afraid to make your own interfaith path. When in doubt, look to nature. She'll teach you everything you need to know about wonder, impermanence, and making friends with the perpetual dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. Turn to sage writers like Willa Cather and John Muir and Gary Snyder and Annie Dillard and Edward Abbey when you are feeling disconnected. (What writers of color would you add to this incomplete list? Kaitlin Curtice is a Potawatomi spiritual writer whose work has really rocked my world this year.) The more I revisit these wise literary voices of religion in the American West, the more I realize they've had it right all along.


Good things coming in 2019. This is the year I turn — gulp — 40! So excited about everything we've got cooking right now. Stay tuned for more on that front.

In the meantime: get outside. Eat plants. Move your body. Read a book. Raise some hell.
In spite of all the bullshit, life is good. Let it be so.


Unknown said…
Your writing has always made me smile :-) you are loved... you are missed... xoxoxox
Diwakar said…
Hello Raw Rach. Wishing you too a blessed and a Christ centered new year. I am a Pastor from Mumbai. India. I am glad to stop by your profile on the blogger and the blog post. I am also blessed and feel privileged and honoured to get connected with you as well as know you and about your interest in Yoga. I have enjoyed your post. I love getting connected with the people of God around the globe to be encouraged, strengthened and praying for one another. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 39 yrs in this great city of Mumbai a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and the poorest of poor live. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing to the brokenhearted. We also encourage young and the adults from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to have you come to Mumbai to work with us during your vacation time. I am sure you will have a life changing experience. My email id is: dhwankhede(at)gmail(dot)com and my name is Diwakar Wankhede. Looking forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and friends.
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