img_5215

No, you’re not allowed to be sad!

Am I allowed to complain about how stressful travel planning is? I’m so lucky. I’m so infinitely lucky, so is it even valid for me to be stressed out? To be a bit sad?

I’ve heard things over and over in my life, both to me and to others about how if you have it good, there can’t be anything bad to complain about. However, I’m a firm believer that just because one has a house, a family, a comfortable life, doesn’t mean they can’t be sad. Or stressed. Or depressed.

In fact, people constantly telling them how lucky they are may amplify that sadness.

I bring this up because I think I may be in the stage of travel where the culture shock gets to me. I changed all my clocks to military time and all my calendars to date/month/year, and this little change has had me railing. Not to mention I started all of my classes today, and had to book a flight with crashing internet, and had to deal with the library for the first time and smacking my head off the underside of my bunkbed and ahhh!

But I’m in a freaking castle in the Netherlands. I’m so lucky. I should appreciate it–I DO appreciate it! I appreciate it so much. I know I’m so lucky. I know I shouldn’t complain about these little things, or that I miss my family and friends.

That’s another thing–am I allowed to miss my family and friends? After all, I left them. It was my choice, nothing made me go. In fact, I fought hard to make this happen, and now I have the gall to complain about crashing internet and a bit of stress?

The irony, of course, is that this all just keeps raising my blood pressure. I’m sure I’m just overthinking. Travel is stressful, for everyone. A new place, a new country, is hard too. Being away from literally everyone you’ve ever met is challenging. Not to mention, starting a new semester of college. I suppose I’m allowed to be a little stressed.

But then again, it’s a castle. How could I possibly complain?

img_5181

Pretending to be an extrovert

There are occasions throughout life when being an introvert is not ideal. A semester abroad is one of those times.

Since the Boston airport I’ve been chatting with people, joining groups on a whim, striking up conversations, and sustaining small talk. It’s been exhausting, but also really nice. I went from having no friends and being really nervous to having plenty of friends and lots of travel plans.

Throughout the week I kept bonding with whomever I could. It’s been difficult but lovely, and it became easier the more I did it. I think it’s good to be able to pretend to be an extrovert.

However, it is not a mask I can wear for too long. Thank goodness for no-class Mondays! I spent today, everyone’s first day of class, on a solo bike ride down a lovely Dutch bike trail. I saw some cute animals along the way, like two horses, some cows, some sheep, and even a small herd of deer that someone had kept as farm animals (or pets? I’m not sure). Then I got back to my room I share with two other girls, and it was empty. What a rarity! I caught up on my YouTube shows and ate a few Stroopwafels, allowing myself to unwind.

img_5167

I was impressed with my ability to make friends in such a hectic, crazy, beautiful, wonderful place. I feel like I’ve already grown as a person while in the Netherlands, and it’s only been four days!

More importantly, I can see now where I may have gone wrong before, like with high school and the beginning of college. There are some introverts here, I can tell. They sit alone at meals, they don’t talk before class. I realize now that seeming shut off to the world like that can make one seem unappealing to befriend. A bit of reservedness is fine, but appearing too introverted can, I would say, be a bad thing.

Perhaps when one can’t be alone, one should embrace company. Nothing is wrong with reading at night, or a solo-stroll around the grounds, or any other time alone, but when I must be with people I will BE with people. Openly, honestly, 100%.

Basically, I don’t feel the need to hide myself anymore. And I feel good about that.

670px-Handle-a-Wooden-Sword-Step-2

An extension of your arm

“Let the sword become an extension of your arm.”

I’ve never used a sword before, but that phrase is said so much on television it’s practically common knowledge. The same phrase goes for tennis racquets and cooking knives and dumbbells; they’re all “extensions of your arm.”

I recently began practicing bike riding. I was never very into biking, but since I’m going to the Netherlands in the fall everyone said that I should relearn, as, “they bike everywhere over there.” So I took the bike out for a spin on Sunday. Besides a seriously uncomfortable seat, it was a pretty good time.

I’ve been trying to ride more like a grown up, steering primarily by leaning instead of using the handlebars and stopping with the handbrakes instead of skidding my feet. I’m getting there.

The interesting thing about steering by leaning is that I began to feel the whole “extension” thing, as if I was a part of the bike. It was me making the bike turn, not the bike itself. It felt more responsive, less wild and dangerous.

I’d always treated my first car like a living being, mostly because she acted like one. She was temperamental and sometimes didn’t do what I asked her to. She also only went up big hills if I gave her a pep talk. I didn’t feel like she was an extension of my body, unlike the bike. She was always something I was working with, like I was riding a horse.

When I used to do archery, I shot best when I cleared my mind and let the bow do the work. Instead of the bow becoming a part of me, I became a part of the bow.

We should probably pay attention to how we interact with things, because it says a lot about who we are. Every object represents a relationship. Do you tend to use people the same way you use objects? When your computer is frustrating do you slam the mouse on the table? Or shut it off completely? Or wait for it to come to its senses? When your car won’t start do you punch the steering wheel or beg it to work with you? Do you ever stop to admire the beauty of the way your pen writes?

There are no wrong answers; it’s all practice in being mindful, and applying our internal relationships to the external. Try to relate how to treat objects to how you treat people. You may be surprised to find which of your loved ones you treat as an extension of your arm.