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. To 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.

Och Wheesht and Get Oan Wit It!*

The fastest way to start this trip off with a bang is by starting in Edinburgh, Scotland. My school does a five day little add on trip at the start of the London semester that you can opt in to so you can explore this gorgeous city during festival season. I took full advantage of it.

Of course, there’s all the traveling to get there. I left my house at 7:30AM EST, boarded a connector flight at 11AM EST and landed in JFK at about noon. My plane to London didn’t leave until 7:30PM EST. Then it was seven plus hours to Heathrow airport, where we boarded a coach to the school center that took about a half an hour. Some waiting ensued, and our train to Edinburgh left King’s Cross Station at a few hours later. Five hours later, we showed up in Scotland, tired of traveling and everything else but unable to sleep because JETLAG. Do yourself a favor and don’t count my travel hours. They made me a little ill.

BUT. The next day the adventures could begin!

The school scheduled some events for us, but a lot of time was also left to ourselves, which you’ll soon see. Our first IMG_0783scheduled event was a bus tour around the city with a guide. I took way too many pictures of the architecture. Seriously. Like 60.

I’m not going to bore you with this day by day itinerary, don’t worry. But I can’t help but mention the fun times had at Camera Obscura, an optical illusion interactive museum, where we all shuffled through a mirror maze and screamed through the Vortex Tunnel. There was also IMG_0855the Edinburgh Dungeons, which I really didn’t want to go to but ended up having a great time. These two were choices by my friends, which were very, very good choices for attractions.

The school got us into Edinburgh Castle, where we had a fantastically sarcastic and also good looking tour guide. They also brought us to IMG_0816Arthur’s Seat, the hike of which I was not prepared for in any sense. (I was not warned to bring a mountain pony and sherpas. I was wearing knockoff Converse for goodness sake.) They helped us partake in the Film Festival, however the play we watched left even those majoring in the theatrical arts scratching their heads.

IMG_0868Thankfully, my friends and I got our own tickets to see Sh*tfaced Shakespeare. Ah, serious theatre.

And yes, there was some drinking of my own involved. Turns out I really, really like the UK acceptance of cider. Who knew?

I didn’t expect to love Scotland as much as I did; I don’t know why. I literally turned to a friend and said, “I hope I like London as much as I like Edinburgh.” After all, a majority of my four months was about to be spent in a city I had yet to see. As our train headed out of Edinburgh Waverly and headed towards King’s Cross, I could only cross my own fingers.

*Dear Sam – I swear this was the title of this post before I saw what you’d titled yours.