Before Night Falls

As much time has passed since I left Europe, I’m still feeling restless. And if it seems as if this apartment project has consumed me, that’s because it has. What’s the normal sequence of events in choosing a place to live? What are the criteria? And once one has made that decision, how does one (getting formal here) not feel constantly overwhelmed by the awareness of how many other places there are in the world?

I spent the last year having an incredible, albeit tumultuous, journey and afterward could have continued anywhere – found a job teaching in Spain, au pair-ing in Italy, or farming in France. But somehow I wound up back in the States – and living 20 minutes from my parents.

While living in China I couldn’t wait to get out – I wanted the West. I wanted good food (by my definition). I wanted pumpkin spice and regular toilets and people who could understand me when I spoke. I said I would never in a million years stay. I would never miss it! But recently I have felt a longing to go back. Not only that, but I’m Facebook friends with everyone whose couch I surfed and seeing their updates – “Off to Paris! Still living in Shanghai!” – makes me wince. Over a month with mom and dad! That’s my status.

I don’t regret coming home – everything happens for a purpose, right? And I know my parents appreciated it, even if by now that’s become obscured by tension over my life skills – the question being whether or not I have the right ones to take care of myself, ostensibly for the first time, in the “real world.” It keeps hitting me that when people take jobs it means working, every day, to make a living. No traveling, except on holidays, and we’re trapped in the States so where is there to go anyway? (I know there are places to go, I’ve never even been to Seattle! Chicago! But…London v. Seattle…Paris v. Chicago…who wins?)

I’m eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to do what I did, and I wasn’t feeling this way a few months ago. Yet now I can’t help wanting more! So let’s make a list of positives of staying in Charlottesville, Virginia:

1) Because of my apartment location, I don’t need a car. Which is good, because I don’t have one – and never want one. Diatribe for another day.
2) The cost of living is solid.
3) It’s not too crowded (cough, DC, cough)
4) It’s really very pretty.
5) It’s mostly undiscovered to me, as I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve never really lived in the city and I’m sure it’ll be more different than I can imagine.

Sure, the nightlife is nonexistent student-oriented and I think it’s a fairly popular place to retire, but Tina Fey was here and that’s gotta count for something, right? I’m not going to make a list of negatives because no.

Le sigh…towards the end of my time in Europe I was excited to come back to the States and ready to find creative fulfillment in a way I only could on my home turf. Now…now I wonder if I made the right choice! I discussed these feelings with another 20-something friend of mine and we concluded that what I need is twofold: focus and perspective. How I get those things will require a third element be thrown into the cauldron, and I don’t think it’s newt’s eye. Thanks, dear reader, for listening to my rambles, and to reward you and remind myself of one of the many experiences I have to be thankful for, below are never-before-seen (!!!) pictures from Rotterdam.

I stayed in Rotterdam for three days and four nights (something like that) and because it was winter and I woke up late every day, I barely got out into the city before nightfall. It was so cold! Got dark so fast! But I stayed with another wonderful Couchsurfing host and was treated to a unique and uniquely Dutch experience of the city. If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’ll make it clear again: Europe + Couchsurfing = Bananas. In the Rachel Zoe way, i.e. SO GOOD. Do it. If you have questions about any of the locations seen below, ask away in the comments section!

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