Saturday, July 25, 2015

Seven Weeks and Counting

As of this morning I have six weeks and six days before I board a plane to London and begin my journey around the world.  In my past few entries I have written a lot about my anxiety around the trip.  You've seen a list of all my fears and worries about leaving home for three months, my struggles with preparing for the journey and what may happen when I return.  I want first to send a thank you to all of my friends who have taken similar journeys and who have told me that this crushing, gut wrenching, nail biting anxiety prior to departing on such an adventure is perfectly normal.  Second I want to note that today's post is not about any of that.  Today's post is about the things I am excited, or at least trying to be excited, about on this journey.

What am I looking forward to while spending three months on Semester at Sea?

1. Only having to focus on one thing.  My life is a constant whirlwind.  I am usually working two jobs, going to school, running a troupe, rehearsing for a show, performing in a show, prepping to teach a class, teaching a class or doing one of the many necessary life things we need to do to survive (eat, sleep, have a social life, etc.).  I live and die by my calendar. When I board the World Odyssey all of this stops.  I will only have school and the trip to focus on.  I have heard that Semester at Sea students have a jam packed schedule but I have a feeling to me it will seem like a break.

2. Crossing the Atlantic, the equator (twice!) and going through the Panama Canal.  Yes, I am thrilled to visit 10 different countries but really, one could fly to any of the places I am visiting should one choose to do so.  Not many of  us have the opportunity to do a transatlantic sea journey.  I am looking forward to seeing the sun and moon rise and set above the sea.  I am eager to look up to the sky and gaze upon stars I've never seen before.  And the Panama Canal has fascinated me ever since I was a child.  These are three once in a lifetime things that most of us will never have a chance to do.  I am so lucky that I get to experience this.

3. Visiting 10 different countries (England, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica). Well, DUH!  I'll be spending four to six days in each and while that is really only enough time to offer a taste of each, I hope to experience something special in each.  I know this will be the experience of a lifetime.

4. The classes.  All students are required to take four classes on board the ship.  I will be taking Global Music, Conservation of Natural Resources, Travel Writing Workshop and Drawing at Sea.  I am particularly excited about the Global Music course as we will be spending a day in Morocco with the organizers of the Visa for Music Festival.  I'll be with students from around the world and learning from professors I'd not otherwise have the opportunity to study with.

5. Stepping outside of my comfort zone.  This might seem to be a bit of a surprise coming from someone prone to anxiety as I am but I actually do enjoy new experiences, even if they scare me a little.  I hope to return having conquered a few of my fears or at least having learned to live with them .

6. Sharing this adventure with all of you.  I am a writer and I express myself best through the written word.  I will be keeping this blog up to date at least bi-weekly.  I'll also be writing a column for the University of Southern Maine student paper, The Free Press.  Those who contributed to the GoFundMe campaign (and who shared their email address with me) will also receive special updates via email.  It will make me feel like I have all of you with me on this journey.

I am trying to keep all of these things in mind as I prepare for the trip.  There is still so much to do, textbooks to be purchase, funds to be set aside and a million other worries but after all of this is done, and it will get done, I have an incredible adventure ahead of me. I am eager for it to begin.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Process Begins

In yesterday's more than slightly angsty post I talked a lot about the uncertainty of my future plans.  In early September I leave for three months of study aboard a ship that will be traveling all over the Atlantic ocean.  There has been a lot of preparation for this journey; the application, the fundraising, scholarship applications, visa applications, medical visits for vaccinations, and so much more.  As part of this process of preparing for my departure on this journey I have also had to give some thought to what will happen upon my return.  After much consideration I have made the decision to give up my room in the apartment I currently share with two roommates.

There are several factors that contributed to this decision.  The primary one being that it makes no sense for me to pay three months rent for a room I am not actually living in.  I did try to find someone to take the space for that time but that led me to my second reason for my not wanting to keep the space.  In ten months I will be graduating from school.  I have no idea what will be happening in my life after that point.  Even if I had found a person to take the space, signing a lease for another year, which would go well beyond my graduation date, just didn't seem practical. And so here I am now, contemplating not only what will happen upon my return (I do have a place to stay in the immediate), but also what needs to be done to prepare for this rather big life change.

When I first started giving the idea some thought I admit to having a shit ton some anxiety about the prospect of not having a permanent home, but I realized soon after that, having been a renter for my entire adult life, I have never really had a permanent home.  I've always lived with the possibility that rent could be raised to an amount higher than I could afford, or that the building I lived in could be sold, or that I could have terrible neighbors and choose to move on my own, or any number of other uncertainties that renters live with. I also came to realize that this decision also presented me with an opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a long time and that is to simplify.

I know that the term simplify is somewhat of an overly trendy cliche these days, but as I said it is something that has appealed to me for some time now.  I look around my living space and there are moments I feel overwhelmed with 'stuff.'   I have so many things that are saved for rainy days, heaps of "I might use this someday," and piles of "I'll get to this one day."  The rainy-some-one-day has yet to arrive; its time to let those heaps and piles go.  I also have a deep desire to live in a fashion that is as low impact as possible, which, while I've not quite figured out exactly what that will entail either, in the long term likely means living in smaller spaces that simply to do not have the room for rainy-some-one-day stuff.

Over the next month I'll be selling, giving away, tossing and otherwise paring down my belongings.  I'm giving myself a month because I want to have my last few weeks before the trip free to visit friends and to take care of any last minute preparations that might be needed. I'm also a terrible procrastinator and having a deadline can be motivating.  Having talked with friends and having read the blogs of those who have gone through a similar process I know it won't be easy but it is my hope that when it is done I will feel lighter not only in physical "stuff" but in my heart as well.

The process begins now...

Monday, July 20, 2015

The next moment of today...

The last time I shared a post on this blog was June 9th.  I've made several attempts to start blog posts but none of them have gone anywhere and they now sit in draft status in my Blogger post list.  The topics are various: art, fear, things about summer that annoy me, things about tourist that annoy me, the stress of planning for my three month journey with Semester at Sea...the list is long. 

Why have I not been posting?  It isn't that I've not been writing.  Just this morning I put pen to paper and filled in the last page of a hard copy journal.  I could in part pass it off to being busy.  I'm at the end of a six week research assistant position that took up far more hours of my time than I originally anticipated and due to the early morning hours it required I've been rather tired these past six weeks.  In fact my last post was done the day before the position began.

Mostly though I have simply been turning very inward, which is why my journal has been getting far more attention than my blog.  I've been trying to make some decisions about my future or at least establish a trajectory.  I've a major, potentially life changing event taking place in less than eight weeks, I'll be leaving my life as it is now for three months and when I return I'll be faced with the last semester of earning my bachelor's degree and graduating in May.  After that life is just sort of a gray fog...

I've never done well with uncertainty, yet the next ten months will be full of so much of it.  I know all of the tricks I'm supposed to do to help deal with this.  I try to pause, to breathe, attempt to bring my thoughts to the present moment rather than worrying about what will happen a week, a month or ten months from now, but even with these tricks and tools the anxiety of uncertainty remains.  It doesn't go away, it just sort of becomes a simmer of background noise rather than the headlining act of my thoughts. 

Trying to talk to people about this proves to be nearly impossible.  I'm often met with, "Oh, I'd not be anxious at all!  It's so exciting and you are going to have an amazing experience.  I'm so jealous and don't understand why you are so worried...don't be so silly."  And while I know that the words are well intended I can't help but feel a bit dismissed, as though there is something wrong with me for feeling anxious.  For the record, I am also feeling excitement and I do expect the next ten months to be transformative, but the anxiety is still there.  

I do take some comfort in the knowledge that, other than establishing a rough outline of a plan, it would be impossible at this time to be able to be plan the next ten months at all.  It simply cannot be done with any sort of firmness and I'd likely explode my brain if I tried to do so.

In the long run I know things will likely turn out okay.  That I will have tales of adventure to share, a feeling of great satisfaction when I am handed my degree and that I'll head off into a potentially awesome future.   Right now though I need to deal with the next hour, the next five minutes, the next moment of today.