The Crash

Today, I crashed. I didn’t get hit by a bus, which is highly probable here. But I crashed. I rolled. I tumbled around on the ground for a while. I’ve been slow to get up.

Dublin was this magical land with enchanted and mysterious streets, big reaching churches, people who speak with words that just keep rolling in a way my own never could. I opened my eyes this morning and woke up firmly in the real world. No magic. No mystery. Petty annoyances, which have been building up since I arrived, have finally reached crescendo. I’m annoyed that I have to go to a million different grocery stores to get what I need and that there’s so much pressure to bag my own groceries while paying and also getting out of the way for the next person. I’m annoyed that all my classes are three hours long and tedious and early in the morning and the walk is long, my backpack heavy. I’ve been craving chocolate all day and all day I’ve had to resist, telling myself no, no, no. I tell myself no more than I tell myself yes. I’m annoyed that the dollar is weaker than the euro, the weather so temperamental, my classmates all on different pages.

I’ve found a little home here in Dublin, but I also feel like I’m floating. I feel the pull back home. Not Burlington, or where my mom lives, or the house we lived in before that. I feel a pull back to the house I grew up in even if it’s not mine and never will be mine again. I guess I’ve always felt the pull back to that house any time I think about “home,” but it’s stronger now. More urgent. I must return, soon. The urge is guttural. The urge is human instinct. Place. Some people are drawn to other people, to things, to ideas and dreams. I am drawn to place. I mark time by the places I go, the places I’ve been. I remember in place. The places I’ve been always come through first, vividly, before any people come through, anything that was said or done.

I love Dublin. But I could never stay here. No one says hi to me on the streets. The cars are all  trying to kill me. The church bells ring whenever the heck they want to, never keeping a discernible schedule. I can’t find cantaloupe anywhere. I can’t find a quiet place – a truly quiet place – without people and cars, jackhammers or roommates. My family isn’t here. Americans are the butt of every joke; I never know when I should keep my mouth closed and when it’s okay to pretend like I belong here. It’s the end of the honeymoon phase, the beginning of the grind. Settling in for the long haul. Classes are just starting to get going. I don’t love any of them, don’t feel particularly motivated to go above and beyond or to even go at all. I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing when the semester ends and I go back home. I have no clue what I’m doing with my life. I always wanted to be twenty when I was younger. I thought it was a good age. I was wrong in a lot of ways. Maybe I’ll look back on this time someday with nostalgia, but right now it just feels like an endless stream of “what if’s?” and “who do I want to be’s?”

I was sad today, and I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t have a good reason for it. I was annoyed with class this morning, annoyed that we aren’t doing any writing in a writing class and that I wouldn’t want to do it even if we were. I just wanted to be home, in bed. And when I did get into my bed (after my training session with Solas, a group I’ll be volunteering with – more on that later), I was miserable. I didn’t want to do anything at all. I didn’t want to go out into the city. I didn’t want to listen to the incessant jack-hammering. I wanted some damn chocolate and to be in my childhood backyard, unaware of what was coming for me. Dublin, yes, but also pain and endless amounts of self-control, no room for error. So much pressure. I can’t remember what it was like to make it through a day without a sore bladder, let alone what it was like to be clueless. To be without doubt. Without a reason to know doubt, or fear.

It sounds so dramatic. It feels dramatic in a way Europe hasn’t. I don’t feel like I’m 3,000 miles away. I don’t feel like I’ve gone anywhere all that new. I thought it would be like a jolt of electricity right when I stepped off the plane: I would just know I’d made it. A new world. Today is the first day the difference has felt large, even if I can’t quantify it in any meaningful way. I don’t want to go home. I just don’t really want anything. Except maybe for things to be easier. That would be nice.

I stayed home after class basically all day. By 7 pm, I was feeling cooped, my legs cramping with lack of stretch. So Abbie, Jess, and I went for a walk around Dublin. We had no destination. We let the cross walks guide us, the strange and strangled flow of traffic pull us in a direction. We ended up in a shopping center, where I got a steamed milk and we browsed through clothes. We saw little baby escalators and they seemed so American: “Oh, there are six steps? We need an escalator here.” When we emerged, we were in front of the movie theater. I’ve always wanted to go the theater without a plan. Just walk in and ask for a ticket to the next movie showing and enjoy the ride. So we did just that. Without constant TV commercial saturation, we didn’t know many of the movies that were out. But “The Room” was about to begin and we’d all heard of the book, or of the story line in general.

I won’t ruin the plot, but it was an emotional ride for a girl who was already feeling overwhelmed emotionally. That’s not to say it wasn’t excellent, because it was. Tragic and incredible, the triumph of human spirit. I cried a few times, and left feeling a little better. Emotional in different ways. The movie theater itself was interesting. For one, you get to pick your seats when you pay in Ireland. Also, there were only two stalls in the bathroom on the second floor (I think there were five floors total?), at least for the women. There was a full and very expansive bar, which I think you could take in to the theaters. But don’t forget the full ice cream shop and the traditional snack stand with popcorn and nachos, and such. There isn’t a bad seat in the house in the movie theater we were in; no neck-craning rows like in American theaters. The seats with like memory foam and there was more leg room. The sound was loud, loud in the way a movie in theaters should be. “Disney loud” as my family used to call it. The theater was dark dark and the interruptions minimal. Fabulous.

As for me, I’ll be fine. Better tomorrow I hope, after a good sleep with no alarm blaring at 7:30 am (for the record, it doesn’t get light here until after 8 am!). Also, evidently it’s officially spring here. And an election is in process. So, exciting developments underway. Hopefully my emotional sanity is one of them.

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2 Comments

  1. Roza Dere

    Sarah I love reading your Blog so much!
    I can relate to this post so much!
    Studying abroad isn’t always fun and pretty. I know exactly how you feel because I felt like that the first months of my exchange year in Viriginia as well.
    It has a lot to do with cultural shock and being outside your comfort zone that is apparently smaller than you thought when flying abroad. In every studying abroad experience comed the point where you compare everything to how it’s done at home and miss home like crazy. I was at that point for the first months as well. Studying abroad is overwhelming because you have to deal with new situations that are only new and strange to you and perfectly self-explaining to others. Even if it’s just the seemingly little things like bagging your own groceries in the store. I know how frustrating that can be.
    But from my experience there comed a point in every student abroad where it just clicks and you start loving the place where you are. You’ll start laughing about the american jokes and all those little annoying things will become natural to you.
    You how sad I was to leave America at the end of my exchange year and even though it was tough the very first months it turned out to be the best year of my life and I’m definetely going back!
    Not knowing where you are in life and what you’re doing in my experience is a natural part of studying abroad ang growing up in general.
    It is a different world even with all the similarities!
    It is challenging and that’s why so many people talk about “finding themselves” abroad. Because you are kinda forced to. With all those challenges comes growth and trust me you will very likely have a much stronger sense of where you are in life after the semester.
    You might encounter self-doubt right now but having to deal with all of those situations is going to make you so much more self-confident in everything you do after this experience!
    Even though my first months were a lot of those days of crying and asking myself what I am doing I would do it all again! The most important thing I learned as an exchange student is that eventually everything IS going to be ok and that saying “yes” to new experiences even though you might be scared or feeling down leads to the best days!
    Try to say yes to as many things as you can, even if you don’t feel like it, meet with friends, go places, I have not regretted going anywhere but I have regretted not going a place/not doing a thing multiple times.
    The trick is to keep yourself busy when you feel sad or homesick!
    Just give it time, trust me once you get back home to America you will miss those annoying church bells and maybe even those crazy drivers and the boring classes!
    I hope this was just a tiny bit helpful. I know you’ll feel better very soon and I hope you have a great experience!
    I miss you! I wish you all the best!
    Roza

    P.S.: If you’re travelling through Europe and maybe want to meet someplace (I saw you’re going to Amsterdam and London) let me know! It would be so cool so meet up again after 4 years now!

    • thewritehodgepodge

      Thank you Roza! It’s so good to hear from you, and your words are so true. I understand more how strong you were to study abroad while you were in high school; it’s challenging enough in college. I would love to meet up with you if we ever happen to be in the same neck of the woods. I’ll be in Amsterdam towards the end of April; that might be as close to you as I get, even though I would love to go to Germany. $$$ is the only problem. I hope all is well with you,
      Sarah

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