New Continent, Old Mistakes

I have started at a new school a total of three times in the last four years, which means that three times I have had to discover a new city, adapt to a different way of learning, and make new friends. As a girl who has had the same tiny group of friends from the time she was six, this scenario is nerve-wracking, to say the least. And since I have been through this three times before, I know what mistakes I tend to make. Unfortunately this first hand knowledge of the way my mind and body reacts to new environments has its ups, but especially has its downs.

The week leading up to my departure from Southern California to Europe, I blocked the thought of meeting new people from my mind and focused on all of the things that I knew I would miss back home. I distracted myself with going on day trips to my favorite cities and places in SoCal with my friends. But on the night before my flight, I had finished all my packing (in less than two hours, I might add; a perk of having moved all of your stuff to a new dorm twice before), and I was home alone. I sat on the sofa with some leftover Italian food, watching How I Met Your Mother. Ironically, it was HIMYM that got me thinking about my future adventures.

For those who haven’t seen the show, it is a series that, at its core, is about sentimentality. There is an episode in which a character plans on moving out of state, away from all of his friends and he devises a list of things he loves in New York (where he lives) that he wants to say goodbye to, reminding me of all the places which I had visited that week to say goodbye. Later his friend reminds him that he should say goodbye to the things he will not miss and not the things he will. It had my mind in a whirl, thinking about whether or not I had the type of social stamina, that only introverts stress over, to make new friends.

All of the negative past memories of adjusting to a new environment came flooding back to me. I remembered the panic attacks in my dorm bathroom at boarding school, feeling totally alone on the weekends, and getting lost in Orange County when I started college, one town away from where I needed to be for a job interview. Of course, I had made my way out of all of those situations though. I met one of my best friends at boarding school, figured out what type of coping mechanisms I relied upon, and I bought my own car so that I no longer took the wrong bus.

All of these worries crept into my head and the Emily who went to boarding school at 16 would have screamed. She would have been unable to stop crying in frustration and worry. But when all of those doubts and storm clouds of anxiety rushed at me, my mind was oddly quiet. I realize, reflecting back on that seemingly inactive millisecond, that my mind was automatically filtering my anxiety in the same way that the characters in How I Met Your Mother helped each other filter their anxiety. And after that, I made a decision: I was saying goodbye to all of the mistakes that I made in the past when I went to a new school and not all of the things that I loved about my home.

I would go into this voyage with an open, positive mind and I would say yes to more opportunities. But a happy mentality is not all I need to survive my time here in France. But that is a story for another time.



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