Room to Breathe

Being in a new environment, in a new country where the curriculum might be unfamiliar to me, I’ve stuck to a lighter course load than I’m used to. In no way is this a bad thing, especially when I’m studying abroad, I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a lot of new material. Actually, a lot of my classes are going toward elective credits I need for my International Studies major or considering declaring a Religious Studies minor.

Again, knowing that these all classes I’m taking are new to me, it’s good for me to have the extra time if necessary to focus on studying or getting help if I need it. I really hope I don’t need it because I don’t like asking for help in the first place, but it’s safe.

Despite all of this realistic analysis, I still worry. I worry that I’m not doing enough, that I’m wasting precious time I could be taking another class or getting some other theoretical task done. I fear that I have too much free time. I fear that if I don’t spend every extra moment toward something productive, I somehow fail. Fail at…life? Who knows. At the same time, however, the first days before classes this week have been tough days. I was glad to have a couple of days to myself to actually relax and recover from hectic traveling, but my mood and motivation have been quite low. Luckily I forced myself to write some blog posts today, but beyond that, thinking of doing anything else sounds unpleasant.

I have never been good about having free time. I struggle at finding a balance between just relaxing while not allowing my depression to run rampant, and getting things done but not stressing myself out and panicking about everything. It’s such a black-and-white feeling that really bothers me. It makes life that much more daunting.

It really bugs me when I’m at a really cool place and am taking advantage of such a great opportunity studying abroad. I have to remember that while I can go on as many adventures I want, my health is still a factor to consider. The preexisting conditions I have won’t take a break while I’m traveling. That fact brings about a new challenge to figure out how to continue enjoying every moment I can while still taking care of myself however I need to.

Over the past year, I have made a lot of progress when it came to figuring out who I am and what I need to feel my best. I realized that all of my mental illnesses are completely real and valid. I also know how easily I can disregard good habits and let my health go to the wayside, usually in the depths or heights of either situation I mentioned earlier. While it’s great to be able to live in such a new, beautiful place, I want to still make a conscious effort in the right direction.

This time studying abroad, in my eyes, is a time truly for myself. It’s my time to try new things and test myself on what I’m capable of. That I can rely on myself and face new situations. It’s a good feeling to know that I am capable of that resilience. It’s not like I haven’t already known that, just living every day with a battle raging inside your head takes enough energy as is. It’s just nice to have some sort of visual representation for it.

With all of that rambling, I ultimately want to make this experience the best I possibly can. I really have the freedom here to explore and appreciate something new. I have already enjoyed my time here immensely and I’ve barely had the taste of what this town and Canada have to offer. The main barrier here will probably be myself. I’m the one holding myself back. Even as someone who praises myself for my independence, I get anxious about going out and just doing things, getting outside of my comfort zone sometimes, and that is the last thing I want to worry about. But I have to give myself the time I need to do so. I know how I am, and I am, at times, overly cautious. I love an adventure, but there has to be some sort of comfort factor in there.

This isn’t just a lesson for this particular instance, but for life in general. These situations will continue to pop up in life where I’m navigating unfamiliar territory, and I’m fighting against my mind’s instincts. But I can’t beat myself up over “not spending my time exactly right.” I just have to live, get out of my head for once, and live. Even if it’s as simple as taking a walk around town.

And although I fear free time, I want to relish it as much as possible. Whether I need the time to myself recouping from a long day, or just going out and doing something new, the last thing I want to fear is an opportunity for exciting learning and growth.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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