Rollercoasters, New Hope, and Sufjan Stevens

This new blog post actually happens in two parts. I wrote the first part on March 2 and I wrote the second part today. The first post is rather depressing, but the newest one is a definite improvement (and includes pictures and videos!) Read and enjoy!

2 March 2010

It’s been a long month.

Well, not really. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe it’s March already. I feel like we just got here and already our semester is half over. But at the same time, a lot’s happened. In some ways I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been really up and down these last few weeks and month(s) in Ireland.

Some days I wake up bright and energized. I’m proud to be here, enjoying where I am and what I do. My classes at UCD are inspiring, I’m living in one of the most enriching cities in Europe, I’ve got good friends on both sides of the pond, and the future looks bright.

Other days, I wake up and my only resolve is to get through the day so I can come home and veg out. UCD is a vapid, boring, racist, sexist party school. Dublin is cold and overcast. I feel isolated and alone, and thinking about the future only makes me want to sleep for hours.

There are a lot of reasons for this emotional rollercoaster, I think:

  • I am still adapting to the academic pace and structure at my new school.
  • I am still adjusting to the culture and unfamiliarities of life in Dublin.
  • Simultaneously, I’m making some great friends and also feeling stifled by other Americans.
  • I’m scared of going to Europe.
  • I’m frustrated and unmotivated by summer collaborative research.
  • I pretty much can’t stop thinking about my dream farmhouse cottage and adopting a puppy and having a baby.
  • I want to feel connected to the seasons and my spirituality, but I feel at a dead end.
  • I’m lonely without Chris around all the time, but at the same time, I wish it was easier to separate and enjoy some separate experiences.
  • Authenticity – What is it? Why am I so dead-set on how this experience is supposed to go?

So, you see, there are a lot of pots on the stove. None of them are boiling particularly hard, but taken together, it’s a lot to keep an eye on. From UCD to Dublin, from friendships to futures, from spiritual needs to emotional ones… I’m a pretty mixed bag right now, and I can’t quite seem to pull it together.

I wish I could share all the lovely things I’ve seen and done over the past month – because, believe me, some of my experiences have been amazing lifetime memories! But I’m simply not inspired. I don’t have it in me to gush over farmer’s markets and movies, wax museums and romantic dinners, first-time drunkenness and making love, dinner parties and birthday pub crawls, rainbows and snowy miracles. All I seem to want to do is sleep and stress. I’ve got a ton of tasks left to accomplish this upcoming week, but instead I just want to curl up into a ball and fret/tense instead.

It’s a little messed up and I’ll be the first one to admit it. It’s like with all the yo-yo’ing I’ve been doing, my fun experiences become trifling annoyances, and my genuine priorities become distracting stressors. That’s pretty screwed up and I’m not quite sure how to deal with it.

Tonight [2 March] I am going to finish up my dinner, roll up my sleeves, and start pounding out some tasks. I don’t want to do it, but I know that if I don’t, I’ll be letting myself down. Maybe I’ll feel better soon!

At this point, I put away my journal and set to work pulling my life together. Here are my new, most recent thoughts.

5 March 2010

Reading back over what I wrote less than a week ago, I am shocked at how quickly I can change, grow, and improve. Perhaps journaling equipped me with the insight and motivation to better my outlook? I’m not really sure. But since the first entry, I feel like a fresh person – scrubbed clean and raw, awake and present.

During this time, I have been listening to Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Feist, and Postal Service incessantly. I feel like “I Will Possess Your Heart” and “For the Widows In Paradise” have seriously helped pull me where I am right now. It sounds weird, but some songs really do drag you where you need to be. I’d like to share them with you.

… Anyway, UCD still pretty much sucks, but the weather has been beautiful. Blue skies, clear, sunny days, and  the crisp air of new springtime make me feel bright and positive like never before. My classes are going well, and I feel like I’ve finally settled into a successful routine as far as my courses and workload is concerned. Having all my tasks properly organized and feeling confident about my studies makes me feel really good!

I’m feeling better about Dublin, too. I’ve had a great time roaming around the city and getting exposed to some new sights and sounds. I finally feel comfortable here, and I feel like I can navigate my way around pretty competently. I love riding the bus, and use my Rambler pass practically every day. Lounging in the top level of the doubledecker, the sun shining in through the glass windows, rumbling through the narrow streets – there’s nothing quite like it.

I’ve been feeling really loved by all my friends recently, too. Here in Dublin, I know that at any moment, I can call up Matt or Dimity or Kelsey or Damian or Siti, or any of my roommates, and we can all have a dinner party or go out to the pubs. I walk through campus and people recognize me, they call out, they say “Hello!” For the first time, I feel really capable of recognizing just how fortunate I am to have made some good friends here. And then, when I’m home or on my computer, my Gmail Inbox and Facebook is full of dear old friends from Minnesota and Iowa, shooting me a message here and there, writing me an email or two, letting me know they care and they’re interested in my life. It’s an incredibly valuable thing to come home and find emails or chats from some of the people who have become sisters and brothers to me. (Emily, Abbie, Ben, Alex, Guy – I’m lookin’ at you!)

In relationship with Chris, too, things are definitely feeling better. We’re trying this new thing – we call it “Operation Boomerang” – where we spend time separately during the weekdays, but then come together again for the occasional weeknight dinner and weekend trips. It’s really working out well so far – we each get to experience some separate stuff, and when we do get to spend time together, we both appreciate each other a lot more! So, I’m feeling really good about that!

As far as spiritual and emotional needs are concerned, I’ve been able to create a mental shift in my outlook away from present-tense frustration, and towards future possibilities. For example, even though right now I might be frustrated by my inability to figure out a spiritual/religious community, I feel confident that I’ll get there in the future. For another example, even though right now I feel distanced from my dream farmhouse and dream babies, I’m thinking of ways I can change my lifestyle or adopt new skill sets in order to prepare for that future. Does that make sense?

Before, I wasn’t feeling up to discussing the lovely, fun things I was doing. But now, by flipping a mental switch in my head, I feel prepared to share all the really awesome stuff I’ve been experiencing! Rather than writing a whole lot, take a look at these pictures:

Also, I’d mentioned earlier that my genuine priorities had become distracting stressors. I’m proud to say that I feel pretty back on-track now. My big issue was preparing my summer collaborative research application (which had gone totally off the rails), but now I’ve gotten back on the rails, and actually finished a complete first draft! Once that application is submitted, all my main goals – my degree, my scholarship programs, my research opportunities, my extracurricular involvements, my internships, my work experience – will be mere inches away from legitimate completion. That’s a phenomenally empowering feeling.

One last note: I am currently preparing and packing for a whirlwind Spring Break Europe trip. On Monday Chris and I are leaving Dublin for Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. We won’t be back until March 22!

As far as communication goes, we will have Internet access (occasionally), but it will be intermittent, and we will not have cell phones. So, this will be the last you’ll hear from me for nearly another month. I’m sorry about that, but next time, I’ll be prepared with tons of pictures of Spain, Italy, and France!!

For the time being, I’ll leave you with another song that’s helped change my life. Maybe it will change yours, too.

Everything is lost
But I know that you can take it to the Lord
Everything you want
Is it all that you can gather for yourself?
Do you love a lot?
It’s the love that changes gifts to everyone
Illinois is lost
Is it strange that you perpetuate yourself?
You wonder what it costs
It’s the joy that he will carry to the door
Everything is lost
Still I know that you can take it to the Lord
(All that he has given to the world)

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