#6: On Filling in the Question Mark

Edinburgh, Scotland

When I look at this picture, I imagine the sunrise over the city, with golden rays breaking through gothic towers, and church bells in the distance. It’s cold and early in my head, and this photo makes me feel like I am waking up. I don’t know if this is where I’ll be yet, but for the first time I’m getting used to the possibilty of the change.

In my blog post about education a while back, I talked about the feeling of an uncertain future, and the restrictions I have experienced as a result of it rather than the liberations assumed by the lack of structure given. For weeks, I have floated in a kind of semi-reality, suspended by the all-consuming thought that I don’t know where I’ll be in three months. But these past few weeks have also given me an opportunity, to step back and think about the larger picture of my life — about where I want to spend it, how I want to spend it. I have begun focusing less on where I’ll be, and more on the type of person I’d like to be.

I want to be the type of person whose heart is filled with happiness for their own life. Not complacency, of saying, it could be worse, and not euphoria that will eventually fade, but a general happiness with the kind of life I am living. I want to be the type to surround myself with good, creative, ambitious people. I want to be the type to go on spontaneous adventures, even if it’s just to the store. I want to be the kind of person that spends their extra money on travelling rather than clothes or products. I want to wear cozy sweaters and have to drink a lot of coffee because my life is too busy and fulfilling for adequate sleep. I want to see more sunsets and read more books, and write without fear of whether others will think it good. I want to take more photographs, of everything.

About a week ago, I was working at the grocery store for my summer job, and I rang up a woman’s groceries. She mentioned that the plastic bags in Scotland cost money in order to encourage reusable grocery bag usage. (Please stick with me, I promise I’ll stop saying the word grocery.) Without thinking about it, I told her how I was applying to the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. (That’s right. 5 US applications weren’t enough, I decided to do another.) Her eyes absolutely lit up and her voice was high and happy when she said, “Oh, are you really? How wonderful!” She asked what I wanted to study and told me more about the city, and about the university and Scotland in general. Up until then, I had considered Edinburgh to be my safety net (though the University is quite prestigious and difficult to get into, I got in senior year and decided not to go so fingers crossed they still like me). But as she spoke, I could envision it, just a little. It would be huge and scary and maybe not what I had imagined college to be, but maybe that’s okay.

Just a few days ago, she came into the store again. She made a beeline straight for me, and I recognized her but couldn’t place her face. She handed me a small folded blue cloth. “To keep you going”, she said. I must have looked bewildered, but said a polite “Oh, thank you. Thank you”, with a smile. I went to open it but the next customer started packing their frozen peas onto the register so I placed it into my bag to look at later. When my lunch break arrived, I sat on a bench in the sunlight and unfolded it. It was a little flag that simply said, SCOTLAND. This Scottish woman had gone out of her way to give me this little flag, and it warmed my numb-from-work heart. I smiled and then grinned, and then regretted not remembering the Scottish woman as she had so clearly remembered me. With a little gesture, she had made me feel infintely better about my big, scary, unknown future.

Then I began thinking about what I would do if I ended up rejected from the last school I’m waiting on, the one I’m hoping and praying on. After a lot of thought and stress and anxiety and tears, I decided that if I end up in that situation (of which there is a good chance), I will apply for paid internships in New York, and while there apply for some other schools, perhaps even Oxford or Cambridge if I’ve had enough time to lick my wounds.

So. In two months time, I will either be staying in New York, moving across the sea to Scotland, or in someplace completely different. That’s something that is still very, very scary to me, but when I focus it in terms of my individual goals of who I want to be rather than where, I feel for the first time in a while, okay.