Breathing Room

Things are about to get sentimental because, let’s face it, I’m a sentimental girl.

As I approach my 23rd birthday, I find myself trying to re-cap the past year. I don’t know if it is human nature or my personal neuroses but, either way, I feel the urge to “sum up” my experiences. I try to take inventory of what has happened and where I am now. I try to examine how I’ve changed and where I’m headed. But the thing is, I know how silly it all sounds. How can I possibly take inventory of my life? My life isn’t like cans of tomatoes lined up on a grocery store shelf. What numbers can I tally? Number of dollars spent? Number of blog posts written? Number of new Facebook friends? These add up to nothing. They reveal no hidden meaning. Nothing can be concluded.

And yet, even knowing this, I still feel the urge to try. So, what do I do? I scan through all of my photos, I re-play scenes from the year. I think of new relationships made and those that have been lost. And I marvel at the interconnectedness of it all.

Sensky_Breathing RoomEver since the birth of this blog (aka: when I graduated college in May), my life has been a whirlwind of choices. Big and small, difficult and easy. Of course, life is always full of choices but when you are freed from all routine, choices flood in like water rushing to fill a footprint on a shore. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in this feeling. It doesn’t make me a special snowflake (to steal the words of Charlie Hoehn).

Like many of my fellow graduates, I was left freewheeling into the open space of life after university. The planned trajectory my life had followed up until that point suddenly disappeared. Like a train skidding out on open ground, my set tracks had ended and it was time to forge my own way.

For months, I had been applying to jobs related to my major. Sometimes I’d receive a reply to let me down easy, but mostly I heard nothing. Looking back, I wonder if employers could see that my heart wasn’t fully in it. I couldn’t admit to myself at the time that, indeed, my heart was somewhere else.

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I had always dreamed of traveling to Europe. However, I never knew what route I wanted to take or how I wanted to do it. The typical backpacking adventure didn’t sit right with me, and study abroad options never panned out. So the idea was left lingering in the back of my mind. After a two week visit to Europe in May with my family, the idea loomed bigger and bigger until it finally couldn’t be ignored.

Sensky_Breathing Room-16By mid-July, the idea could not be bridled any longer by my “why not” reasons. It was time. I had to make a move. So one day, I quite spontaneously booked a plane ticket to Berlin.  A surge of energy and adrenaline rushed through my body when I finally hit the “book ticket” button. I had the feeling of settling something. Although logically the decision didn’t make a whole lot of sense, in my core I knew it was right. It was one of those things that you feel but have trouble explaining to the average person.

Sensky_Breating Room-18After a month of preparations, I said goodbye to my dear work family and boarded a plane full of fear and excitement.

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Sensky_Breathing Room-19It’s funny how when you think you finally have something “figured” out, life slaps you in the face and reminds you that life keeps going, and questions keep coming. I was now in Berlin and yet I found myself grappling with the same existential dilemmas. What should I do? Should I go to grad school? Should I try to find a job immediately? Life doesn’t suddenly all fall perfectly into place, even after putting a stake in the ground. For the first part of my journey, I found myself unable to even fully enjoy my new surroundings as I was questioning my decision as well as my next step. Self-doubt set in, the worst form of anxiety, as it eats away at your own identity.

Despite my uncertainty, I was making the best of my new situation in Berlin and trying to put myself out there as much as possible. Before long, the universe had a way of working things out and erased my largest questions.

After a weekend trip to Amsterdam, one piece of my life became “settled.” Simply put, I found my heart. I extended my stay and decided to spend the rest of my time living in the lovely city of canals. But just as before, when one thing is set, more questions arise. In my case, it was what to do about a visa. Such is life — the endless bubble of questions and choices that carry us from day-to-day.

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Sensky_Breathing Room-3Unfortunately, since my tourist visa was fast expiring,  I determined that my best option was returning back to the States to re-group.

During my last few weeks, I soaked up my remaining European time with trips to Rome, Malaga, Granada, Istanbul and Dublin. Why not go out with a bang?

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Now that I’m back, I try to compare the me then with the me now. How have I changed? What are my priorities now? What makes me different?

Although I’m still bothered by worries, I know travel has taught me more than I can appreciate now. I absorbed lessons just through living somewhere foreign. I also learned the truth of one popular cliche. Follow your intuition. My experiences proved to me that if you follow your gut and keep a positive spirit, unimaginably good things will result. If nothing else, I can feel settled by this. I can hold on to this.

I can also breathe a sigh of relief and shake my head at this funny existence. Because in the end, we can try to make sense of our lives but no logical answer will be found. But I like to think that the act of reflection gives us something. It offers a bit of perspective. It creates some distance, and maybe even some space for gratitude.

So, thank you to all of the paths that have crossed mine. Each point of connection has changed my life, and brought me here, to this couch where I’m sitting, to this free moment where I have the luxury to think, to this sunny day with the freedom to be the me I create.

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