I am waiting. For the past two years, I feel as though my constant state of being has been “waiting.” Waiting for the right time to apply to graduate school, waiting for applications to open, waiting to find out a decision, waiting to receive a visa, and waiting to leave. I have been stuck waiting for the thing that I had already been waiting for, feeling as though I am trapped in an endless, circular limbo going nowhere. While I knew I was moving towards something, the slow burn it took to get there was frustrating at the best of times and disheartening at others.
My desire to go to graduate school abroad filled every nook and cranny of my mind. I visualized it with an intensity that, at times, it scared me. I worried that I was delusional and too lost in a fantasy of my own creation that nothing would compare to it, and I was setting myself up for disappointment. After all, in Western culture, visions of imaginary or future things are generally frowned upon. And yet, I also wondered if perhaps I had cracked it. Throughout time, people of great minds have spoke of the power of visualization, whether or not they have used this exact term. Positive reinforcement, an attitude of gratitude, the law of attraction — these are all things that motivational speakers, therapists, life coaches, influencers, and leaders encourage as tools for success. Epics and legends have been written about those able to achieve such a state of focus and enlightenment that they undergo an experience unlike anything before. Life becomes clear, as does the current direction one must take.
While I am not so conceited as to believe that I have the ability to tap into this great wonder of the universe, I am bold enough to believe that I wanted something enough to will it into reality. I could see every aspect of my life and how I wanted it to be. I could feel the rainy wind against my face and the cobblestones under my feet. I could smell the sea air and hear Scottish accents around me. I could imagine myself writing papers, attending lectures, and having discussions with other students. I could feel the presence of new friends and colleagues. I believed in all of this so strongly. It felt real to me, real down to my bones.
But images of what I wanted and believed my life would soon be like could only sustain me for so long. Even as the time grew closer and each new step brought it further into reality, I felt stagnant, and this irritated me.
I like to be busy and productive to a fault. Even if I am moving forward, if it is not fast enough, I feel as though I am moving backwards. I wanted so desperately for time to pass more quickly so that I could begin this next chapter of my life. I had wanted it so much that it hurt. I had fallen in love with an idea, an experience, and I felt as much heart ache waiting for it as I had when I had experienced heart ache for a person. I felt sick and tired of waiting, but waiting was all I could do. The task was to sit tight and wait. And, impatiently, I did.
This past year has been leading up to one of my greatest achievements, something I have wanted for so long, and my best adventure to date. I spent the majority of the year worried, stressed, and impatient. Only just recently have I finally been hysterically excited. Only just recently have I allowed myself to revisit my visions for what I wanted my future to look like. Only just recently have I felt as if I am moving forward again.
Only just recently have I truly felt like myself again.
One day when I was a junior in high school, my English teacher asked my class who felt like they truly knew who they were. Almost no one in my class raised their hand. The question, apparently, was a trick one. My teacher went on to say how people our age, for the most part, couldn’t know who we were because we were young, had not experienced life, and did not engage in the type of “soul searching” required to get to know yourself. These words were fair enough. Most young people, or people of any age for that matter, do not know themselves. Most people do not take the time to get to know themselves by themselves. Spending time alone and getting to know yourself as if a stranger is not an intuitive task, albeit an important one. However, what my English teacher did not see, or if she did didn’t call attention to, was that I had raised my hand. Sitting in a part of the classroom that served as a blindspot to where she was standing, I had timidly put my hand down when she launched into her speech, feeling embarrassed and even ashamed. For a split second, I wondered if I was arrogant to assume I knew who I was. But deep down, I knew I was not. I wasn’t naive, and I knew that who a person is changes constantly, and that I very well might not be the same ten years later. But even at seventeen, I was introspective and reflective. I knew what was important to me and what I wanted to do. I knew the type of person I wanted to be. I believed that I knew who I was, and I was proud of that person and happy to be her.
That identity has stayed with me as the core of who I believe I am since then. For the past seven years, nearly all my core values and beliefs have held true. That is not to say that I have not matured or changed positively. I have grown in so many ways. I am more patient, more tolerant, and have more faith in life’s grand schemes. I am less neurotic and less timid. But, I am that same person. I knew who I was then and I still do now.
However for a while, life threw various experiences at me that challenged me. Friendships were tested, love came and was lost, success came within my reach but then was ripped away. During college, a series of unfortunate events chipped away at my confidence until it left me feeling cracked and broken. I felt like I lost my sense of self. The seventeen year old girl who had such a certainty about her was gone, and though I tried desperately to get her back, I couldn’t find her. This pulled me down into a pit of despair, and I mourned the loss of myself while still trying to build myself back up again. I went to Cambodia, I moved to San Francisco, and I worked a job that I felt put me back in the direction I wanted to go. I engaged in hobbies and activities that she would have done, taking ballet classes, Hebrew lessons, and social justice fellowships. I started running again, if at the least, to chase her down despite the multi-year head start. I applied to graduate school to take myself back to the place where I had last thought I felt her, the place where she felt like everything in her life was going in the right direction.
When I went to Scotland in 2015, I was still struggling to find my way back to the version of myself that I had lost. The process of applying to go there was not unlike the waiting process to go to graduate school. The idea came to me years before it could happen, and I sat tight and waited, filling my mind with visions of a better place. At that time, the waiting process helped me to find my way back to myself. I started to feel like the old me, the real me, the girl with confidence, a strong sense of self, and purpose. When I arrived in Scotland, I felt on top of the world, the happiest I had been in years. However, my bliss did not last and I soon lost her. Whether I lost her to Scotland, she left, or I had never really found her to begin with, I do not know. All I know is that the last time I was in Scotland, I felt like I had found myself again.
Perhaps initially my desire to go back to Scotland was in part a hope that it would again fill me with the same magic that it did the last time. As I mentioned in my last post, the decision became and is now so much more than that. However, the process of getting to Scotland has also helped me rediscover the girl that I once knew. While waiting, worry, and stress have consumed me over the past few years, and especially in the last months, so has joy, excitement, and happiness. I have felt determined, confident, and passionate. I have felt content and at peace. I have felt like my life is going where it is supposed to be going, and like I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.
I have felt like myself because I have been acting like and for myself. It took me seven years, but I finally found the girl that I was chasing after all this time. I chased her across countries and through different jobs. She led me on a wild goose chase of various life experiences, causing me to try all sorts of things in an effort to see if I would find her there. But I caught up to her and she welcomed me with open arms. And now we can walk together, hand in hand on to our next adventure.
In five days, I am boarding a plane to Scotland. I will begin the next chapter of my life, one that I have been dreaming of for years. Once, I had hoped that this experience would help me find myself. I was so eager to start it that I could not bear to wait.
I have not left yet, but I have already found myself and this time she isn’t going anywhere. She will be coming to Scotland with me. And until then, we are both sitting tightly.
P.S. Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this, please give it a “like” down below and if you are not already, click the “follow” button on the right hand side-bar to stay up to date.