I used to hate writing reflections, mainly because I knew them from the classes and academic programs that required them for even the least significant projects. I was used to forging opinions and pretending I’d learned something just to get a mark. And it’s just as difficult when my mom asks me to reflect on something five minutes after that something has ended– like jeez, give me some time to process, please?
But recently I’ve unintentionally taken to premortum grieving, if you will. And yeah, that is a very morbid way of describing it, but I first noticed it when my dog Shackleton died. Maybe it’s a part of being anxious, that you gain the ability to do most of your reflecting on something that hasn’t happened yet. That made the last few days in Cork pretty miserable, but it made my first few days in the US less miserable. So I think I have some reflection thoughts.
I really, really wish that I had joined the fencing club some other socs right off the bat. I got thrown off quite a bit by the whole circus club thing, which made me feel more insecure about, I dunno, trying anything else? It seems really silly in retrospect, but I was in a slightly more introverted phase back then. And that’s reasonable for me; I was so overwhelmed running after all the newness that of course I would go into myself to catch my breath. I don’t forgive myself easily though, so I’m always sore about not doing more.
Going along with that was wishing I’d spent less time with the other USAC students, not because I disliked them as a whole but because they gave me the excuse to not meet anyone else. We lived in the same building which was convenient but kept me inside a lot. Another part of this scene is that most visiting students are avid weekend travelers. This provided an opportunity to get some travel buddies, but I wasn’t secure enough in any of my friendships to try that. This led me to feel insecure about the fact that I had several weekends on which I had absolutely nothing planned. And besides, I thought I might have a different idea of what constituted a good trip than other students.
The trips that I did take were all high-quality, though. And most of them were by myself to a certain extent. I’m not going to go into detail about each individual trip right here, that’s for my to-be-published webcomic and more details can be found on this blog. If that ever gets published, of course. I’m kidding, of course it will, I just don’t know when.
But I digress. The first few months of my life in Ireland contained minimal trips out of indecision, and so did the last out of satisfaction.
Besides fencing, the internet helped me make some UCC friends. I did go to one Netsoc event after Halloween, from which I recognized Evan and Colm, and we followed each other on Twitter. We remained internet acquaintances from afar for a while until I met Evan for coffee and Colm chose my submission for one of his Tapes. Through these two wonderful people I met more wonderful people at a party a month before leaving Ireland, which is a shame cause it’s another thing I wish I could have done earlier. The bright side is that I got to meet them at all.
There’s also the question of my May-born relationship with Brian with which I entered Ireland in August and left in late February. I do ask myself, did it take away from my experience? Did it hold me back? While it might be easy to blame my little regrets on one relationship, I neither want to nor truthfully can. In fact, I firmly believe that being in a long-distance relationship was a help, and that it pushed me forward as much as it could. It helped me on the basic level of not getting distracted chasing after boys and instead pursuing solid friendships and solo experiences. It helped on a somewhat broader level of knowing that I had an anchor back home who was rooting for me. But I also believe that when it ended, it needed to end. I no longer needed it so badly. Hate to end a paragraph on a cliché note, but what was meant to happen happened.
Thinking about what I wish I’d done isn’t productive in any case. Instead, I’m gonna list the ways in which I’ve grown:
- My desire to create has risen and gained a new confidence. Blogging almost-daily ensured that I got to do even the smallest creative thing every day. Creation feels like a simultaneously easier and larger challenge, but an all-around more necessary act. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to go about doing it; I’ll find a way and then another.
- Individual relationships feel like creation too– just as fun and interesting and unique. And I have the same burning desire for people that I do for art.
- I survived a year barely watching or doing any theatre, and I’m thinking that I should drop my theatre major. That’s a post for another time.
- While my anxiety still presents itself as a problem in plenty of functions, travel no longer seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Difficult and shpilkes-producing every time, but totally doable.
- With friends, fencing and even competing can be pure fun. Like I don’t need to put my entire self-worth into a single bout, chill out. I can be passionate about it and want to improve my skill without it being my everything. People will still respect and admire me even if I’m not the very best (like no one ever was).
- I’ve learned that sometimes you set out to become the Pie Lord but your kitchen is better-equipped for cookies and they turn out to be your strength. Become the Cookie Captain instead.
And here are some things I’m looking forward to having in the US:
- Better access to music education
- The Jewish community (and Jewish foods)
- Korean, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American food
And the things that are going to take some getting used to:
- The dialects
- Not walking everywhere
- How expensive fruit and vegetables are
- Fashion here
Let’s go back to the beginning real quick and go into why I did this year abroad. Basically I knew I wanted to travel in college, after spending my second year of high school abroad in Belgium with my family. Only this time I wanted it to be on my own terms. And this is where we maybe get even more sticky and self-pitying– I wanted to leave my home to create another home that I would have to leave. Maybe I enjoy missing too much.
I don’t really know what I’m doing this summer or this year, and the sudden relative lack of plans is unnerving. I have sort of built my identity on my future plans since that’s often what I discuss when I first meet people. My mom suggests that I use this summer to relax, unwind, and not worry too much about about what I’m going to do. To which I respond, relax? Are you sure? But she’s also kinda right.
But because nostalgia is always there, I doubt this will be my last reflective post. And in that small way there can only be more adventure in the future and more to create. I feel like I should thank anyone who read this entire thing. I’ll bake you cookies sometime.