An Open Letter to 2014 (and that London wrap up you never got)

It’s been a crazy time since I last wrote, what with finals and coming home and such. Then there was family to see an holidays to celebrate and then, without taking a beat, this amazing year has less than 24 hours left to it. (And yes, this is going to be one of those sappy, life affirming posts. You’ve been warned.)

About time to do a wrap up post. However, I don’t think I could do one about London without talking about the events leading up to it anyways, so this works out rather well.

2013 was not a good year for me. It was a year that a lot of things ended. A lot of big things. The biggest one–the one that started me on this very slippery slope–was my choice and not one I would take back, but it still led to learning a lot of things I’d rather have never known about myself or some of the people around me. Oh well.

So enter 2014. Me swearing up and down that I was getting better. That I was healing. It just seemed like every time I got a bit of clarity, something would happen or been said and I’d swing back in the other direction. By the summer I was running in circles so hard and fast I had my best friends planning an intervention. I could see the rut I was in, but I didn’t know how to get out of it and I was just about ready to leave myself there.

It was exactly the right time to put myself on a plane and stick myself in the middle of legit foreign territory.

Honestly, the beginning of my study abroad wasn’t the greatest time of my life either. I made some pretty major choices that a smarter person wouldn’t have made, ones that wrecked me out again before I could even really get started. I got there in the middle of August, and by the middle of September I was convinced I’d already fucked up so majorly that there was no going back, that the rut had followed me, and that all the things I hated about myself were maybe things I should just accept and stop beating myself up about them.

It’s a good thing I’m so desperately stubborn.

I didn’t want to be stuck. Studying abroad is the greatest time to make that decision, because you literally aren’t allowed to be. I didn’t have the time to wallow in my own self-loathing, because there was always so much to do. More than that, I had ample opportunity to overcome major fears that I’d never really been able to confront before. I’m not going to spell out every little life lesson I learned, but the major one for me was the fear that I would never, ever been able to stand on my own–in anything. Studying abroad showed me how strong I could be without even trying.

So between London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Barcelona and my multi-city Italy adventure, there was the good, the bad and everything in between. There were a few people who made my life difficult, but there were also people who were practically just acquaintances when this all started who are now the kind of friends I’d walk through fire for and trust would do the same for me. Most importantly, there is this realization here, at the end of it all, that I don’t regret a single thing–especially the bad decisions that left me in a puddle of tears at the time. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to find the solid footing that I needed.

I actually ended up getting a tattoo a week after I got back from Paris because, even then, this journey meant so much to me that I needed to give myself a reminder. The word I got on my right wrist, Surprises, really doesn’t mean anything to anyone except for me, but that’s exactly the point.┬áTo me, it symbolizes the past two years and is a physical reminder for the next time things get bad (because they will, that’s life), things do get better. I threw in the towel on myself so many times but thanks to the support of the friends around me I kept going just enough to get to this moment where I can say, “I am stronger now.”

If 2013 was the year I broke, 2014 was the year I started building again. I know I’m hardly done yet, but at least this time I feel like I have a foundation that no one will be able to shatter as easily again–especially me. So thanks, 2014.

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The Ireland Incident

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Sam, Madison, me and Sara!

Another weekend, another trip. This time, it was a girls weekend to Dublin, Ireland! Ireland is a place that I’ve wanted to go for a long time, so I was super excited. Especially because I got to go with all my ladies.

The night before we went, we got maybe 5 IMG_1194hours of sleep because of school and how early our flight left. When we arrived, it was pouring buckets–welcome to Ireland! Because of that, we kind of laid low, checking out Trinity College and some other local sites. We checked into our hostel and our room that had 42 beds in it. That was an experience I can say I probably don’t want to have again. A mini pub crawl began that night, but I got really sick so I didn’t stay for most of it. (Get ready, this is going to come back later.)

IMG_1216The next day, however, was absolutely spectacular. We went out to Glendalough National Park (glen-da-lock, ladies and gents) and had the most perfect day for it. We explored some monastic ruins, ran into some deer, hiked around and played in a waterfall. It was just gorgeous and perfect and wonderful.

That night, however, was not so much. At 2AM I awoke with serious pain in my right ear. I tried to go back to sleep, not wanting to bother anyone at 2 freaking AM, but it didn’t last long. 4AM rolled around and I was crying in the fetal position. Poor Sam. I had to wake her up and beg for Advil, which she didn’t have, and then curl into a ball and ask if maybe we could go to the ER.

I don’t know if you know this (I hope you don’t) but 4:30AM on a Sunday morning is a very strange time to go to the ER. Most of all the drunken messes have been and gone, and the only people left are a random conglomeration of people with varying degrees of problems. Also, I think a few homeless people trying to spend the night out of the cold and being shooed by the security team who is very done with their jobs at this point. However, I got myself some strong painkillers and antibiotics and went back to sleep fairly quickly. (I had to take midterms on these drugs. They are very strong.)

IMG_1261The next day, we slept a lot. Sara left that morning for her internship, so it was down to Madison, Sam and their friend Kat. We spent the rest of that day roaming Dublin Castle and looking at the outsides of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church, then hid from the threatening rain in a Peacock Green cafe. Later on we explored an Irish Oktoberfest, which for this person of very German descent was absolutely hilarious.

Madison left Monday morning, leaving Sam and I with a full day to wander. We’d basically

Giant's Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

Giant’s Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

exhausted the city by then, though. We went to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the National Gallery and the National Leprechaun Museum in our museum crawl. We wanted to see some others, but they were closed (ON MONDAY WHY?). We actually got to the airport really early for our then hourish delayed flight until we finally rolled into our beds at 2:30AM.

Honestly, Dublin was really underwhelming. Compared to London, it’s a very small city with not a lot of (free) things to do. I would have gladly paid for some of the experiences (and did) but really I just wanted to be anywhere but the city. You can really do all the highlights in a day or two. I certainly want to go back to Ireland, but I never want to see a city. I want to hit all the sites outside, like the Hill of Tara and Trim or the Giant’s Causeway. Even the tourist offices in Dublin know that most of the good times happen outside the city, so there are plenty of day trips from there to all these places. If you want to do Ireland, take full advantage of that. Just plan them ahead and don’t expect the city to propel your entire visit.

I’m off to Italy tomorrow for ten days, with a still plugged ear and a lack of antibiotics so this should be yet another adventure. Until I return!