Well, I haven't been very communicative lately, so I thought I'd just write to say hi.
Things here have been okay but not great. On January first of this year, I still hadn't paid off a dime's worth of debt, which is the whole reason I had to re-enter diaspora living. Various expenses, my car repeatedly breaking down, dental work, old credit card debt, and other problems had taken up all the money I was hoping to put towards my school debt. I had always assumed that my experiences with poverty in Israel, lving for weeks at a time on a bag of potatoes and ketchup packets from Burger King and "securing" my toilet paper from the university would have taught me to be careful with my money, and I was careful, but somehow living on my own in California has just been incredibly expensive. So on Rosh Hashanah last year, I resolved to start clamping down. I cut way way back on luxury expenses and started watching every penny. I like to challenge myself with a game called "streak", where I go as many days as possible without spending any money at all. My current record is six days. Also, my weight loss program really cut back on grocery bills (yes, I'm still maintaining my weight loss of 50 lbs.) Since January every spare cent I have has gone towards the loans.
I can't say that it's been a picnick though. Walnut Creek can be a very lonely place, as it's very hard to find religious girls around here. I've looked on all of the Frum dating websites, and there are some really nice girls out there on the east coast, but they're all too far away and, because of my clamp-down on expenses it's been very difficult to travel. The more local types seem to be more on the liberal end of things, as in, "My name is Sarah and I want to have a family but I also want to be a full-time trauma surgeon," which wouldn't work for what I want in a family. I've been in contact with shidduch potentials in Israel via email, but it's so expensive that I can't afford to meet them in person, and it gradually fizzles, which is harder than having never started communicating in the first place. About a month ago, I became very depressed, to the point that I couldn't eat or sleep for three days (it was right around Tisha B'Av.) Fortunately, I have some good friends here who helped me through it, and I'm feeling a lot happier now. I've always despised depression, assuming it a form of self-pity, but when it hits you it hits hard.
I find that I'm happiest when I feel that I'm making progress towards my goal of Aliyah. The Tanya (the founding mystical text of Chabad Lubavitch) says that if one is depressed the best course of action is to make ones self busy with mitzvot, and work is a mitzvah (six days of the week you shall work and on the seventh day don't do any work at all,) so I decided to throw myself into my work. The main project I've been working on over the last year is due on Erev Rosh Hashanah (September 15th), so there's tons of work to do to get it out the door. I've been working an average of ten hours per day, six days a week. After work, I like to come home, lay down on my bed, and listen to a lesson or two on Aish Hatorah audio (www.aishaudio.com) In the last five weeks I've ammassed over 100 hours of comp time, which I will eventually cash out and put toward my loans.
The good news is that I've been rewarded for my hard work with my very own office. Yes, I am no longer cubicled. I can even close the door and talk over the speaker phone with clients and vendors, or just sit at my desk and look important. Ever since they put me in the office, people stopped treating me like a trainee and started regarding me as an real life engineer. I am now managing construction of the power plant I designed for Seattle last year, meeting with clients, and coordinating our designs with subcontractors. Sometimes, people even ask me questions! The down side is that I'm now held responsible for every mistake I make. It's frustrating when someone comes back to me with a mistake I made in a design I completed a year ago that wasn't noticed until construction, and which is glaringly obvious to me now.
Well, there's lots of other stuff going on here. I have a potential roommate, so I could be moving soon. I have to study for the EIT exam which I'm taking in November. And, of course, the holidays are coming up in just two weeks!