BEDAFAIL 2012: Wanderwhat?

There’s a framed poster wedged between my headboard and the wall in my room back in California. It’s a map of the United Kingdom. The frame was too long for the map, so beneath it, I put a little clipping of the definition of “wanderlust.”

Wanderlust (n): a strong urge or desire to travel  
 

I’ve always thought that those people with an Eat, Pray, Love-esque itch to see the world were the coolest people. Look at them, carpe-ing those diems under a new sky every week. In another misguided surge of peer pressure, I tried so hard to be them. I put that quote on my wall and I stared longingly at instagram photos of suitcases and airplanes. I moved to England. I will admit that I did gain some positive knowledge about myself through this all: Aside from the other academics-related changes, I am now much more of the notion that money is better spent on experiences than things. Which is great.
I wanted to be “that girl” who studied abroad in London, then moved there to work, then spent a few years in Australia or Germany or something, then divided her time between a flat in Soho and a little place in Tokyo or whatever. I still feel like I’m a disappointment for not being interested in living in London as a twenty-something. That’s where we’re supposed to go, man! We’re supposed to be those young jetsetters! Globe trotters! Wanderers! Gap year-taking backpackers with the vigor of life coursing through our veins!
But… what if I like California? What if I want to just settle somewhere for a while? What if I like being within a few hours’ drive of my immediate family? What if I like the sun and the coffee shops that know my order and the year-round flip flop wearers? I used to think that made me boring. Ordinary.

It’s not that I never got out of Turlock– judging from the skyline I see out of my kitchen window, I got the hell out of Turlock. But is it bad that I want to go back? (I mean, not all the way back to Turlock, just back to California.) I’ve proven that I’m independent. I’ve been fine. I’m going to be fine for the next month.  I can’t wait to see Wales and the Netherlands and more of England.

It’s great to travel and I can’t wait to start travelling around the United States when I get back, but sometimes, it’s just nice to be “home.”
[Cut to Katherine, August 2012, complaining about how inferior California is and longing for the streets of London. I hope not. I just want to carpe the shit out of my diems wherever I am. Even, and especially, in California.]

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BEDAFAIL 2012: More revelations on why I was an asshole

The first day my sister was visiting was the last day I wrote something of worth in here. I mentioned now being able to understand that feeling of embarrassment and childishness when your parents come visit you at work or something. What I failed to remember was that in almost all of those situations, the characters learn to deal with it in a mature way.

I think a better explanation of what I was feeling those first few days is that classic movie scene when the mother comes in when the kid is hanging out with his friends and shares some embarrassing story about how the kid acts when he or she isn’t being “cool” around friends. Except the “uncool” thing I was exposed as being was, well, being an American. The thing is, when you look back on those times your mom embarrassed you in front of your friends, you realize that you were completely overreacting and that you shouldn’t have been ashamed at all. Fortunately, since I’m adultish now, it only took a few days to go from embarrassment to realization that I was stupid.

Not only was I stupid for being ashamed that my sister and friends were “outing” me as an American, I was stupid for being ashamed of being an American. I remember hearing in my cross-cultural training class that the two most common reactions to Americans studying abroad is that they either become more or less American. I was on the “less” side, but so much so that I don’t even think I believed it. It took having other Americans around to hang out with for me to realize that most of the English things I did were not so much because I deep down wanted to do them, but because I thought they were what I was supposed to do to fit in. It was peer pressure on a national level.

Now, though, I don’t feel that pressure anymore. I’m sure it helps that I don’t have classes to rush to or work to get ready for, but I’m letting myself walk a little slower and I’m trying harder to write “realize” instead of “realise” and I’m working on getting rid of my weirdo mid-Atlantic accent I acquired. I’m American. I’m from California. I love it there. I’m excited to go back. I may be in England right now and I’ll do as the English do when necessary, but I’m not going to be the apologetic American anymore. And that’s a nice thing to know about yourself.

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BEDAFAIL: Janine’s visit

I’m honestly just going to try to blog at least a few more times in April as this clearly hasn’t worked out. Anyway, Janine and Brett (and Bryan and Other Janine) left yesterday after over a week in the UK with me and it was the best/worst/most fun/hardest thing I’ve ever done.

To start, I was absolutely horrible to everyone last Saturday through last Tuesday, tapering off into pleasantness by this past weekend. I had an assignment to complete that was stressing me out at first, but even after I turned it in, I was just acting like a freaking awful person to them all and especially to my sister. I walked ahead of them most of the time, made short or rude comments when they did stuff wrong, and didn’t talk during meals. Now, I just want to go back and shake my past self. Why were you so mean?! I can narrow it down to a combination of a few causes.

One, London has made me fast, irritable, very quiet, and unused to social situations. I know I was pretty lonerish in my earlier years of college too, but I always at least had to hang out with people before chapter meetings or in rooms at Pike or something like that. I didn’t realize that the amount of time I’ve spent by myself in London is so much more than I ever have before and that it has actually undone my ability to hang out in large groups of friends like I used to. I kept walking away from them because I couldn’t fathom them wanting to walk with me, or me wanting to walk with them. I couldn’t really imagine doing anything not-by-myself. As far as the irritable thing goes, well, yep. I’ve spent the last few months angry at least a few times each hour, even in small things like when the person in front of me turns in a way I wasn’t expecting. The difference is that I just grumble in my head when a stranger does it and no one is harmed. I was actually saying it out loud with Janine and I think I offended her a lot and frequently and I couldn’t feel worse about it.

Two, I tried so hard to be a Londoner for the past three months that I forgot that I’m not one. I don’t talk on the Tube because the Unofficial Londoner Rules say you shouldn’t (and because I’m alone on them, see paragraph above), not because I actually don’t want to talk. I’m fast and angry about tourists because the Unofficial Londoner Rules say we walk fast and hate tourists, not because I really need to get places that quickly. I’ve been focused on following the rules well so I fit in, but I deep down don’t want to follow those rules. I want to walk more slowly when it’s sunny outside and continue my conversation – quietly – even when I’m on the Tube and I want to shout and jump when I’m excited. I really do. But I suppressed it for so long that I forgot how much I used to like doing it. Even after everyone left, I noticed that I was actually getting passed by on the sidewalk and that I didn’t care. It’s spring break, I’m American, I should walk however fast I freaking want to.

Three, the weirdest one for me to realize, is that I’ve never actually known more than Janine before. I mean not that I don’t know stupid bits of trivia or details about Doctor Who that she doesn’t but for once, there was this whole country I was reasonably familiar with that she knew very little about. And apparently, I don’t know how to react in that situation. I’ve always been the one doing something she’s already done, even if I do it a little differently. I went to the same school as her, got a similar degree as hers, joined the same sorority as her, and worked/work for the same company as she did. I’m used to learning from her and I responded poorly when I realized that here, I had things to teach her. I’ve never done that before and I failed spectacularly all week long. Every time I informed her of something, it was with this “why didn’t you already know that” tone that was super condescending and I feel so bad about it. Janine, I know you’re about the only person who reads this still, so I’m sorry.

After Janine and Brett left yesterday, I couldn’t let myself accept it. I couldn’t go home. I sat in Starbucks for a few hours, walked around first Oxford Street and second the Tottenham Court Road/Seven Dials area for a few hours, and returned to Starbucks for a few more hours. I didn’t let myself do anything school related. I couldn’t accept that it was over. I feel like I wasted my time with my sister, time that could have been spent laughing and telling stories and walking too slow but not caring because I was back with my freaking sister and I just spent it moody and silent and now they’re gone again and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been denying homesickness for a very long time, but I’ll admit it now: I want to go home.

Mostly, I want to be done with my Mooting class because literally never before have I hated a class, its subject matter, or my partner on a partner project more. So maybe after May 1 I’ll be a little more optimistic, but I just feel like that moot is looming over me whenever I do anything not specifically related to it. Like I should be spending literally every waking minute of these next two weeks working on it. Which is understandably not reasonable, but I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I really hope I can push through these next two weeks with a positive attitude because after that, it’s travel time. I want to go to Wales for at least a night and I’m going to go to the Netherlands for at least a week.

I feel like I’m doing a lot less travelling than the other study abroad students, but I don’t think I mind. I’m doing exactly what I want to do, though of course I would like to travel more in the next two weeks than I may be able to but I’ll just have to make it work. I think I’m going to get a lot of “oh my god you didn’t go to paris?!” comments when I get home, but I did go to the Netherlands a Lot. And I went to a few different places around England.

Anyway I should probably save more of my thoughts for other posts if I want to at least a semi-respectable job of BALODA(Blog a Lot of Days April). So. TL;DR: I need to learn how to be a nice person when I’m around people I care about and Janine I miss you and I’m sorry.

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BEDA 2012 Day 9: It doesn’t count as two days if you don’t sleep in between

But it does mean that you’re braindead. 

I’m failing so hard at BEDA.

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BEDA Day 7: Regression

There’s this one episode of Scrubs where the main characters’ parents come visit for a family weekend any they all turn into their childhood selves. 

I understand the feeling now.

Needless to say, I’m going to spend the rest of my evening eating bowls of cereal and watching Youtube videos. An hour for the Eye tomorrow then I’m going back to my room to write my essay.

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BEDA 2012 Day 6: Starbucks

[Filed under: manifestations of homesickness]

I have my curtains drawn all the way back to light my room as I work on my report today. The way the sun is shining into my room makes me crave Starbucks–not the drink itself, but the process.

I get my things together–my green purse, my swipe card, my iPod–and I head out into the Alpha Phi hallway, tugging the door shut behind me. It never latches without that extra second yank. I pause in the back hallway, remembering that I actually got a space in the front parking lot earlier that week. I do one last pat of all my pockets to make sure I have everything, panicking for a moment before realizing I put it all in my purse instead of my pockets.

As I walk through the dining room, a group of girls sits around eating bagels with strawberry cream cheese and recounting stories from their wild Thursday night while the hashers lay out the sandwich fillings for lunch that day. There aren’t any lights on in the entire dining room; the diffused light shining through the wall of french doors is plenty.

I head out to my car, get in, and start it. I make sure my newest favorite song is blasting before I pull out of the parking space. The air rushes through the rolled-down windows as I pass Grace, stop extra thoroughly for the police car parked at the corner, and head out past the business building, the chapel, Burns tower, and left onto Pacific Avenue. A man in a gaudily painted Cadillac eyes me at as second stop light just before the light turns green. He slams the gas and roars through the intersection. Unimpressed, I hit the gas as well and change into the right lane, already well behind his shrinking chrome bumper.

I pull into the massive mall parking lot and crane my neck, trying to figure out which aisle it is that I should turn down. I finally spot the correct one and drive a little too quickly to the very end, parking next to the cinderblock enclosure for some equipment I’m not allowed to touch. I toss my iPod, still on and tethered to my car’s auxilliary jack, onto the passenger’s seat. I’ll be fast, no need to hide it.

That damn fan blows my hair in front of my eyes as I walk inside, taking a deep breath of the coffee-saturated air and getting in line. I examine the options in the pastry case as I dig for my gold card and mentally rehearse my order.

“Hi, can I get a triple grande *skinny* *caramel* latte, no foam please?” My months of experience making this exact same order have taught me which modifiers are most misheard. Nothing would be more depressing than a vanilla latte or-god forbid- full fat on a sunny April afternoon like this one. “For Katherine.” I watch carefully as she swipes my gold card and the price drops by thirty cents–loyalty perk.

As I wait for my drink, I pretend to look interested in the selection of mugs and teas on display. They haven’t changed much since last time I was here, so instead of reading them, I organize them. I straighten out the handles and even out the rows. You’re welcome, Starbucks staff.

My name is called and I head over to pick up my grande triple no foam skinny caramel latte for… “Cathrine?” Seriously?

“Um,” I say, going on tiptoe to see over the counter and get the barista’s attention. “Can I have one of those plug thingies?” I mime putting the plug thingy into the drink to make my point clearer. “Thaaank you.” I grab my drink and shove through the heavy entrance, digging for my keys as I head back to my car. It’s going to be a long day of homework, but I’m well-armed and ready to go.

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BEDA 2012 Day 5: Instastalgia

New term. When you go from hating something to romanticizing something the moment you stop doing it.

I do this all the freaking time. I had my last day at my internship today- the internship was a nuisance on its good days and soul-crushingly boring on its bad days. But I left today and all could think of was how nice everyone was and how I was so happy to have had the chance to help them out for the last 12 weeks. Now, the thing is, all of the stuff I said is true, but it is true simultaneously. My job sucked AND there were nice people who were grateful for my hard work. But why can’t I process both sides at one time?

This same thing seems to happen pretty much all the time with me. When I think about things I used to do with my sorority, I think fondly about going to cycling classes with the sophomores or about the way you always knew when someone is coming in to give you awesome gossip because it’s the only time they’ll close the door behind them. A guy from high school just asked me about my accounting internship last summer and I went on for a few paragraphs about the great intern class you’ll meet and how they help you build your professional network. 

I want to revisit this with more deep contemplation on the way the past always shines a little brighter than the present, but for now I’m just going to leave with an acknowledgement that it happens.

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