Keeping Your Nerve Up

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Dear Brightstar,

As you well know I have just moved again. I’m living in an entirely new city, continent, and hemisphere. Kampala is by all standards a very different city then Geneva.

Yesterday I felt alive with the possibilities of living here. Tonight I feel as though I am heartbroken and alone.

My nerves are raw. I am exhausted. It’s an ever shifting equilibrium. I get both thrills from the thought of living in this new city and I despair I will never fill the ache of friends I miss.

There are definitive benefits to living abroad.

“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.” ~ Hannah Arendt

But this is balanced with heartache.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Unknown

In the meantime, you need to absorb new routines and overwhelming changes while mourning the life you choose to leave elsewhere. Especially, the people you choose to leave behind.

I know I choose this change just as I keep choosing a lifestyle of leaving places and people. But some nights its difficult to sleep with this choice.

But there seems to be nothing to it but to keep going.

The skills I will need to cultivate in order to live a life ‘persistently abroad‘—-by which I mean I keep choosing to move abroad despite my distress at starting over— will need to be: tenacity, patience with myself, courage, and good humor that feeds into a adventurous spirit.

I am here now and I will build a life in Kampala. It will never be the life I lead at home, or that I had in Geneva, but it will certainly be an adventure. With some patience and persistence, I think I can flourish here despite missing what I’ve built before.

All the best from my new home to be,

Keatsway

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“When the world feels all jittery . . .”

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Dear Keatsway,

On weeks when my head is spinning with too many ideas and I can’t seem to sit still, I try to remember everything I’ve read to somehow put into words what seems incomprehensible inside my head:

When the world feels all jittery, like it just quit smoking, and the questions of my soul start to sound like a heavy metal concert gone awry, I find I must . . .    -Tamara Park, Sacred Encounters

Except the must part doesn’t apply to me here. Park wrote that travel stills her, but for me I find that travel just unleashes a pandora’s box, igniting a desire to plan more trips instead of plan my life.  And at this moment that is precisely what I don’t need. But the jitteriness and soul questions and thoughts beginning to sound like a heavy metal concert gone awry, that I can relate to perfectly.

These last few weeks my thoughts been swimming with what ifs and I long for a doable action, not a detour, to propel me in the right direction. The idea of what I am supposed to do with the rest of my life is overwhelming and suffocating at times. In those moments every second seems to be laced with an extraordinary weight.

But there are still the hours, aren’t there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another.  –Michael Cunningham, The Hours

What if every plan I thought would be in place by now, as I stand at the precipice of my twenties, has not come to pass, what then? Do I make a new plan? And what if I discover that I am more attached to “the plan” than living out the extraordinary ordinariness of my life?

We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep-it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the mornings; we hope, more than anything, for more.  –Michael Cunningham, The Hours

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When my heart is heavy with unfulfilled dreams and uncertainty, all I can do is crawl under the covers in the fetal position until I don’t feel anything else. Eventually I come up for air and when I do I open a book.  I escape  through other character’s stories until the wee hours  of the morning pass and I can no longer keep my eyes open For years I’ve been escaping–sometimes referred to as taking a book binge–through dystopic literature and fantasy when my own life became too vulnerable and uncertain.  Maybe somehow by reading about another life, time and place I can pick up some extra bravery and navigation skills to manage my own.

In the meant time I need to acknowledge the incredible gift of being accepted into a graduate program in England. Whether or not I accept, defer for a year (how does one put one’s dreams on hold for an entire year?), or completely change my mind about it entirely –due to hefty price tags, doubling student loans, lack of scholarships, lack of parental approval– this acceptance is a good thing and it can lead to open doors in places I hadn’t expected.

None of this trepidation and decision making will go away anytime soon; this I know. Not for a while. But in the meantime I got this post down on paper. The one I never thought I would publish. And I discovered my own way of stilling my mind, conquering the hours, and remaining undefeated by unfinished dreams: following the stories of strong, female characters  who have conquered fire breathing dragons (or their equivalent) when I need inspiration to defeat my own.

xo, Brightstar