Time Traveling in the Present: Post-Europe Refections
I finished my last two college courses on the 29th, then on July 1 I left for Lithuania. The timing was perfect. Not only because I finished my classes just in time before leaving the country, but because it turns out that the only thing that could force me to face my own anxiety and address it was to literally take myself out of the freaking country. There, I had nothing to do. Hell, for a little while I couldn’t even do much because we had limited internet and even our luggage was lost for the first week. I was almost forced to live a minimalistic lifestyle — something that I always dream about but worry ill never be the type of person to do. It was humbling. I was forced to be alone with my mind. All three weeks.
At first, I still felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach, as I watched others pursue careers in the cities I dreamed of, or when I read articles online that I had the almost exact idea for. But then, especially as the weeks went on, with each passing moment I was forced to be still. To look away. Because how could I not when I’m in the beautiful city of Brussels, Brugge or Gent, or in Lithuania’s rolling countryside? How could I not take a moment to forget about my paranoia, anxieties, and worries just for a moment and focus on the present and all the amazing things that my trip in Europe was giving me. This trip demanded my attention. I needed that.
Now, I've come back and I feel all in all, different. I feel a little calmer, a little less flustered about my future plans. This trip did a lot of things for me -- it let me reunite with old friends, reconnect to my second home, as well as just reflect on how I've changed since the last time I went there. The last time I went to Lithuania was when I decided I wanted to go into journalism. I was on a train ride from Siauliai to Vilnius, starring at the people around me. And I got to thinking about their lives, their stories and what they were thinking at that moment. It allowed me to separate from the nightmare that was my life at the time. So I started to write. And then when I got back, I wrote about it and got my first article published. This trip was different. It's been 3 years later and I'm a different person - I'm more grown up, more drained and less naive. But I still felt a passion for the same thing I fell in love with.
All in all, this trip allowed me to regroup, reflect and kind of force myself to take a damn chill pill. Ever since I walked the stage at CSU up until the day I flew out, I’ve been in quite an a spiral of anxiety. For some reason, my brain wouldn’t let me be: I was somehow convinced that I had to start doing everything I can to get my career off the ground. Mind you I literally just finished my last semester and still had two more courses to go. And yet, for those weeks I was still obsessing over job applications, thinking of pitches, making appointments. I was trying to fill empty space after school was done, and I ended up just drowning myself in all these unnecessary tasks that I really did not have to do within 5 weeks after finishing college. I thought that if I didn’t hit the ground hitting NOW, I would fail. I started to spiral and think: what if I peaked in college? What if the reason I succeeded in all those articles, classes, projects, leadership roles is that I just got lucky? I thought, what if I’ve just been faking it until I make it, but won’t ever actually make it?
I've realized my anxiety has been doing something more horrible than just making me a worry wart. It's been constantly reminding me of my immortality, as well as the reality of lack of time. Dread, that I'll never make it where I want to go, never do the things I want to do, accomplish the projects I want to, be the person I want to be, and that I'll die before I even get close.
I’m not gonna lie, for a while, I’ve been rushing. Rushing to get things done, increase my resume, finish school, learn everything I need to know, and even to get over my own trauma and grief. I know that this isn’t how it works. Things don’t get fixed in short periods of time. Things don’t fall into place faster just because you pick up the pace. Everything takes time. I’ve known for a while that I need to slow down. Not only because I’ll be more productive but also so I can live more fully and learn some new sides of myself. Being in Europe for three weeks really helped because people there know how to take their time more. It may seem like a stereotype but I really saw this overall relaxed aura from being there - whether it comes to their lifestyle, food, or whatever. People are more intentional about how they spend their days. I think it’s really important for me to bring that kind of mindset back with me.
Upon coming back to the good ol' United States I read this Zodiac sign article on Man Repeller:
This little paragraph reminded me how much I love different forms of art -- not only writing. In Europe, I got a chance to play around with my photography, without worrying too much if I was doing it right or not. It reminded me how making art has always been something that helps me be in the present -- whether it be dance, painting or taking pictures.
This trip to Europe was a sort of time travel. It allowed me to be in the present while looking forward at the same time. I would rather find that balance than fast forward myself to the magical futuristic place where everything is all accomplished and done. Because I don't even know where that is, and I shouldn't pretend like I do. And I certainly shouldn't let my anxiety convince me that I do. The greatest kind of time travel is forcing yourself to be in the present. Do we try to travel across time every day: what if I did this differently 2 years ago? What will I be doing in 5 years?
I definitely know a couple things. I know that my trip has not completely fixed my mental health state. I know that my anxiety and my need to have complete control over my life is there -- still lingering and sometimes, festering. But giving three weeks to myself out of the country was a good reminder that the world is wide, I have time, and being in the present is okay. On my last night in Belgium, my godmother took me to a fancy dinner in the countryside with her and her fiance and I felt at peace and full of love. I took in every moment of the night. She also showed me a song by a Belgian band and I fell in love with the calm, lovely sound of it. I now listen to it and think of that last night, where I actually felt like I had no worries and my only job was to eat food, drink wine and enjoy the night.