Embracing Change

by Helen Armstrong on January 3, 2016

I’ve always felt that transitions are the worst times in a person’s life. Like, for example, the week before and after leaving for a big, life-changing trip. It’s stressful, saying goodbye is difficult, and change sucks. I would rather jump right into the middle of it and not have to deal with the “leaving” and “settling in” periods.

But as my time at home draws to an end and Italy looms at the end of the week, I have a choice to make. I can either drown in the packing and saying goodbye to my family, friends, and dog, letting the anxiety dreams eat away at me throughout the day; or I can try to make the most of it.

Photo by Dale Jackson.

Not, I hope, surprisingly, I’ve chosen the latter. I’ve spent the break so far watching season 7 of “Supernatural” (just okay) and “Star Wars” (great). I’ve caught up with friends and family and then hugged them goodbye amidst well wishes for my travel abroad. I’ve given my dog a lot of belly rubs.

(So far, the only tears I’ve shed about all of this were over “Star Wars,” and those were plentiful.)

I just got home from seeing “The Force Awakens” with my family at the actual movie theater (if you know us, you know that’s a rare occurrence). My younger brother and I sat between my parents and I thought about how my parents went to see “Star Wars” in the theater in 1980, and that they would have no idea that 36 years later, they’d be sitting with two of their children in between them, watching another “Star Wars” movie.

I like to think of time as non-linear. Instead, everything is laid out in front of us in scenes and we have to follow the order they’re in. I remember saying to my boyfriend before leaving for London, “Somewhere far away from here there’s a version of me getting home, but I can’t go to her yet. I have to go through the middle first.” Maybe everything in our life is happening simultaneously, but we have to walk through the in-between to get to the next thing that’s happening.

So in 1980, my parents sat next to each other in a movie theater watching “Star Wars”; in 2016, they sat with their children between them. What if those two things were really happening simultaneously, but separately? They wouldn’t know it, and there would be no way to jump from one to the other, but the two are connected and they’re both happening now.

I know that study abroad can be trying, and I may be frustrated, homesick, sad, angry, who knows? Part of living is embracing those feelings then letting them go when they pass.

I don’t know. And it doesn’t really matter. My point is, if we’re only ever stuck in the time we’re in now, it doesn’t matter what’s happening in front of or behind us. We’re where we are, and there’s no use in peeking around the corner or turning our heads to look behind.

So, yes, transitions are difficult, but in the new year, I’m trying to live—not just exist—in the present. I think that’s how the most peaceful people operate, and in the coming months, I’ll need peace. I know that study abroad can be trying, and I may be frustrated, homesick, sad, angry, who knows? Part of living is embracing those feelings then letting them go when they pass.

I spent too much time in London trying to fast-forward my experience. I wanted orientation to be over so I could start classes, then I wanted classes to go faster so I could get to reading week, then once I was done with that I wanted it to be Christmas already. When it was finished, I realized I’d spent too much time looking at the countdown on my phone.

Even moreso, before I left, all I could think about was London. The summer was swallowed in thoughts and anxiety about my future, and I forgot to enjoy it. So this winter break, in the days before I leave for Italy, I’m embracing the now. Rather than bowing to anxiety and anticipation, I’m going to sit back, relax, and watch “Star Wars” with my family. I’m going to pet my dog and tell her that I love her. I’m going to sing along to the Hamilton soundtrack while I pack my bags, and then when the time comes, I’ll get on the plane, and that will be that.