Tonight, it occurred to me as I was spreading Nutella on bread for my midnight snack that today was not only the first day of classes, but the first day where I really started to feel like I had a schedule I could stick to. With a schedule and a set course of action for my upcoming weeks here in England, I really think I'll be able to feel like I'm myself again. Myself in a new geographic location and educational situation, yes, and a self ready to experience loads of new things...but myself nonetheless. It was like I had finally woken up and regained consciousness from a restless sleep that had taken a week...and the entire month preceding it.
When I came home from Hope for Christmas break, I had packed up all of my belongings out of my apartment (with the wonderful and able assistance of one Ms. Claire Shea, to whom I owe my life about fifty times over) -- the first time I've had to do that before a summer, the first time my place at Hope faded into emptiness while everyone else's remained filled. Christmas vacation and Christmas itself seemed just like all the other years I've been at school, but then after New Years, my friends started slowly but surely scattering back to their respective colleges and individual walks in life while I was left behind to recuperate from wisdom tooth surgery and think long and hard about what I was about to do. Such long periods of international travel, especially if one is attempting such a feat for the first time, should not be taken lightly. The rest of break was a little bit surreal -- I sat around on the couch watching TV and my Hope friends' Facebook updates day in and day out, becoming an odd combination of maelstrom of nervous energy (going out and buying tons of crap, applying for credit cards, organizing crap...eventually) and couch potato (oh hey, Say Yes to the Dress is on again). I tried to mentally block out the life I had chosen to leave behind for four months. It was almost painful knowing that my life's orbit and those of all the people I loved five hours north wouldn't intersect until I was done spinning off on my own, and in my absence they would drift through their Michigan universe without me. It was a buzzkill, to say the very least. It was a psyche-shaking realization that made me disgusted with myself for being such a pansy and angry at myself for being disgusted...and in the cycle of nerves and self-examining questions, I lost myself in bowls of ice cream and What Not to Wear.
The day before I left through the first full day I was here, I was pretty much a wreck. There were tears, there were frantic questions to myself, there was doubt, there was assurance and confidence and gradual elation...and then there was a relapse. Over and over. I had to get used to the money. I had to get used to looking both ways (and right first) before crossing the street. I had to lug nearly 90 pounds of luggage through an airport and a train station in a place where I had never been. I had to set my watch five hours ahead and power through two days melted into one. I had to set up my room and be friendly (or at least civil) to the people who were trying to help me. I smelled and I'd slept MAYBE 4 hours in a span of about 30. I'd love to say I was nothing but awestruck and starry-eyed when I landed on Britannia's shores, but in reality, whenever I found myself alone, I couldn't help but ask myself why I dreamed these dreams, why I wanted what took me away from those I loved, why I had become both hungering for change and utterly resistant to it. In my state of weariness, hunger, loneliness, and shell-shock, I had literally forgotten who I was and why coming here had been a dream of mine for years.
Slowly but surely, I crawled out of my hole of confusion. I slept (a lot). I ate (little by little). I made friends. I went out. I explored my new surroundings and tried to familiarize myself with my new life. I threw myself into the schedule of orientation week. I grumbled at the Registrar's seeming inability to schedule my classes correctly. I accepted invitations and new ideas. In short, I woke up and saw England for what it really is...the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that never would have come my way again. It's not a loss because I'm not at Hope College for my sixth semester out of eight; it's a gain because opportunity knocked, and I threw open the door and gave it a huge hug.
Now, I'm getting into the swing of things as I will know it until Easter. After some hunting and more grumbling in the general direction of Registry, I found my first class today -- Creative Writing B, a multigenre blend of nonfiction prose, short fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. I have Nineteenth Century Writing tomorrow; I have Writing the Caribbean on Wednesday. Both of those days I'm meeting up with friends before/after class to meet new people, get lost in York and find our ways back out, and soak up more experiences. I have Thursday and Friday off. Heh heh heh. ;) In having a schedule, I also have a rhyme and reason for my days and for being at York St. John in the first place, and therefore (hopefully) a means of getting to know myself again. I do very much want to be here; I do realize that I'm here for a reason; I do know that what I take away from simply being here will be so much more than I could learn in any classroom, in England or in the States.
This is not to say that I've completely cut myself off from my life in the U.S., though...in fact, as the week has gone on, I've been getting better and better about being in contact with my friends from back home (and my family, too...hi, Mom!). I'm incredibly glad I live in a day and age where I can share my new life with them almost in real time, via this blog, Skype, Facebook, email, etc etc etc. I know the reverse will also be true when I go home in May and I will then keep in contact with all of the friends I've made here. I suppose no matter where I go from now on, I'll be separated from someone I know and miss by an ocean and more distance than I would like to think about -- but, then again, if it weren't for oceans and distance, then I wouldn't have gotten to reintroduce myself to the part of me who longs for finding beauty and meaning in the unexplored corners of places I might never have been.
I've woken up from my month long coma of fear, doubt, and uncertainty...and I'm eager to introduce you to me.
It's nice to meet you, world. Love what you've done with the place.