For the most part of 2014 to 2018, I was abroad. I visited nearly every capital of Europe and a few in The Middle East, living like a modern-day princess. I studied what I wanted, wandered museums, bought things for my friends, slept too much or too little, never worried about money, and disappeared.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to do something that was just for me. Not for my school, or my family, or just something that I was told that I needed to do. Just once, I wanted the choice to be who I was, without anyone knowing my history or telling me what to do. I had a very sad few years as a teen, and I wanted to forget and move on. I wanted to find out exactly who I was because, honestly, I didn’t really know.
I learned that I like the feeling of showing up in a crazy country and learning the language, that I liked swimming without worrying about sharks, and that I had an affinity for Belgian art. I made friends quickly or not at all, depending on my mood. I couldn’t resist rich foods and expensive coffee, and I would move heaven and hell to go to a random city if that’s what I really wanted.
But what I really needed to learn was how to be alone. I had to enjoy my own company, to be okay with my thoughts and loneliness, and to figure out a problem without anyone’s help. I could live completely sufficiently.
I could find a way to get to one small city in Ireland to another in one day, even if I had to take three buses and a few taxis, or maybe even walk a few miles. I did whatever it took to get the job done. I had to be okay going days without a real conversation, the most being ordering a coffee. It needed to be like that sometimes.
Now I’m living in my hometown, Encinitas in Southern California, working a big-girl job. I feel like an adult and it’s weird. I’m not sure if I like it but this needed to happen too. I found what I was looking for abroad but when I moved back here, I learned there was a whole new set of lessons I needed to learn in order to adapt here. How to live in the same house as my parents when I’m trying to be independent. Where my priorities lie; if I want to spend $20 on gas every time I want to do stand-up comedy downtown. How to save money when I’m trying to move out while still enjoying my life.
Life isn’t really broken up into stages. For me, it wasn’t like, “high school, travel, try college, travel #2, come home.” All that time fades together, to the point where I can hardly recognize the transition. Maybe it’s a good thing, so that there are no beginnings or endings. Life’s just one line going straight like ————————->
I’m still trying to figure out how it works. I hope I find it soon.