Mild Identity Crisis

Katie Thompson-Taylor University College Cork, Ireland


January 9, 2017

This year, instead of clothes and shoes for Christmas, I got an RFID-blocking wallet and a secret money stash that snaps onto a bra strap, not to mention several other travel-friendly items. It's made this whole "sure, I'll go live in Ireland for a third of the year" idea go from daydreaming fantasy to glaring reality. I'm going to Europe alone and I'm not coming back for a long while.

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be packing up to spend 4 months across an ocean by myself, I would've told them while I'm glad they thought I was cool/gutsy enough to do such a thing, they were probably crazy. But as I stand here in the aftermath of a tornado that went through my closet (aka coffee-fueled me), I'm feeling like I might be the crazy one.

Don't get me wrong; when I think about how I'm about to be in another country, living on my own in an apartment, and going on adventures big and small, I get so giddy that I could do a jig (no pun intended, since I'm going to Ireland). It's going to change my life in ways that I can barely anticipate and am more than ready for. While my life at school has pushed me, I've felt for a little while now that it's my job to take the reins and push myself even further, and venturing out into the wide world is doing just that.

But I think it's important to note that everyone gets nervous, particularly about the big decisions in life that you're poignantly aware of significantly changing the course of your future. Because it's one thing to daydream in a dorm room about escaping to Europe and growing as a person by soaking up culture and life like a human sponge, but it's another thing to actually get yourself there, survive, and thrive. The reality of it is probably both far more and far less romantic than I can imagine. And that's more than okay; I think that's just life.

Big changes are sticky like that: they're full of joy and pain at the same time, making them difficult to wrestle with. On the one hand, I'm going to become much more independent and worldly, and hopefully a little bit more fearless. I'll probably figure out exactly which graduate program I want to apply to, what kind of career I'd like to pursue, what kind of people I'd like to be with through my life, and who I'd like to be for myself. On the other hand, I have to leave behind family, friends, mentors and professors, my dogs, and even a version of me I won't ever be again, and it's all just a little bit sad.

Even just the decision to study abroad was a big one and changed my life in ways I didn't expect. I lost a few friends and an important, longterm relationship because I decided that pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and prioritizing this experience was more important for who I am as a person than other aspects of my life. It's a choice I do not regret in the slightest, but every choice has its loss and it's normal to feel it.

It's up to you to decide what you get out of the choice and if it's worth it in the end. So maybe I'm crazy for what I'm about to do, and yes it's scary and comes with its own consequences, but it feels like the fundamentally right thing for me to do. It feels right to push myself beyond comfort, to leave the known behind and wander into the unknown, and to be figuring myself out by saying yes to an incredible opportunity. I chose Ireland because of my Irish roots that I want to chase down, not to mention all the incredible literary contributions they've made across the years, and it just feels right.

So if you decide to study abroad, be prepare to be nervous and even a little scared. But don't question your choice because you'll know in your heart that it's the right one.

And in case anyone is wondering, packing? Not my forte.