I first came to this website with not so much an eager writing mind, but with the exhaustion of having to email several individuals about my travel and life experiences, a daunting task that usually ended with a very generic story which could be copied and pasted and ran no risks of offending anyone. I titled the blog “Time to Begin”…and then promptly logged off and pretty immediately forgot that I was supposed to be starting something new. Four months later, equipped with a mind now ready to write, perhaps now I will begin. But maybe this will be a different sort of blog because I want to start with the past.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
I moved to Dublin on August 24th, 2013 to study English Literature at Trinity College in the city center, leaving behind a boy I had been dating for a couple of months, a scattered and already distant family, and the slight familiarity that I had built up after two years at my previous college in Illinois. I was excited to start this new adventure and was fascinated by the foreign city. Immediately I picked up on a feeling in the air: not only did Ireland have the highest birth rates in the EU but the general attitude was that of expectancy. It seemed that everything and everyone was pregnant in body and mind, swelling with new ideas and rich cultural backgrounds, birthing epiphanies and grand artistic works. But it took me a few weeks to realize that while everyone seemed to be gravid with this certain prosperity, I was only heavy with a mind that did not know where to truly exist.
I was in this new and beautiful place but I was unconsciously inhabiting the past, not living life because I was only looking backwards, trying to understand things that I hadn’t been able to process completely before. I realized that inevitably I was still moving forward because that is just how time works, but without actively looking ahead, I lost my sense of direction. I had wanted to start something new, to embrace the “time to begin” but a large portion of my days involved a mind wandering back to Iowa and Los Angeles and Seattle. I became obsessed with people and places I was not around, scribbling frustrated thoughts about moving on but not allowing myself to actually let anything go.
My mind became a center for disjointed inner-narrations, mulling close to but never touching on the idea of reconciliation between the old and the new; it became a center for neurosis and repetition and obsession about time that could rival characters of William Faulkner. I became depressed and angry and lonely, not developing strong relationships with the people around me and starting petty arguments with people back home in order to spark any kind of intensity within conversation.
I originally wasn’t planning on returning to the states for Christmas, I wanted to stay in Wales with my father after my time in Ireland was over and before I was supposed to start studying in Florence three weeks later. However, after things started going awry in Dublin, I made up my mind that I would go visit my mother in Minnesota for a few days and then surprise my boyfriend in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve before heading back to Europe. My journey home was that from Hell and I arrived in Little Falls very mentally and physically exhausted. I spent most of my stay sleeping, eating homemade chex mix, improving creativity within the Nativity scene, and watching Lord of the Rings with my dog.
After catching up on rest and finally seeing old friends, I left my small -30 degree hometown at four in the morning, greeted my 5th airport in ten days, and boarded a plane to give my best friend exactly what he had been wanting for Christmas. Because of the assumption that he was picking up his grandparents at LAX and that I was enjoying a “child’s Christmas in Wales”, I was able to implement a pretty astounding surprise. My mind was finally in proximity of the subject of my long-term thoughts. I stayed in LA for the next ten days, enjoying more rest, an openhearted family, and 80 degree weather. I celebrated New Years for the second year in a row on the front steps of a well loved house in North Hollywood, and simply reveled in existing where I actually was.
Airports are often bittersweet places. Here you can see, without changing locations, faces lit with excitement for upcoming adventures, bored looking business men and women whose airport experiences are purely ritual, astonished expressions due to certain surprise visitors, and finally the pained look of someone leaving behind someone they love. My mind was rapidly switching through all of these and forcing them onto my own face as I started step one of my journey to Florence, Italy; I didn’t know what to feel, or think, or be. Step two of my voyage brought me to the Seattle airport, where the long overdue meet up with an old friend resulted in a more at ease mind. Unfortunately, the flight to Paris was just long enough for my mind to go back through that very complicating array of emotions: I kept my eyes trained out of the window until the sun set and everything went black, trying to distract myself from reverting to the negative mindset that I had tried to leave in Dublin.
I arrived in Firenze tired and late, immediately experiencing the roadblocks of a language barrier. But I was excited about the challenge of it all, and became obsessed with trying to mother the culture and language until I was an effective part of it. For the second time in a foreign country, it took me the first few weeks before I realized that something was again wrong. I became determined not to be stuck in repetition, stubborn against adopting the same thoughts, and insistent on an actual change. I would not go back to the days where my mind was existing elsewhere. I would not be mentally somewhere else. So I opted to break my own heart, and finally had the conversation that I had been avoiding. I told my boy that I needed to be selfish, that I loved him but I couldn’t be with him, not like this, that he needed to set my mind free to exist in Italy. I needed to separate from everything and everyone holding me back from finding myself in a new place.
Things like this hurt, and sometimes leave interesting marks on a person, but are usually beneficial in the long run. I am trying to live forwards without spending so much time looking backwards: I know that I don’t have to be obsessed with understanding everything; I know that I will be happy. And now, by finally forcing my gaze onward….now it is time to begin.