Sep 2, 2012

Moving to the rhythm

Time to go home!

When I rolled over in bed this morning, groping around on my nightstand so I could hit "snooze" on my cell phone alarm, this was the first thought that crossed my mind.  And then I realized - again - that until December, I’m here.  For the next fifteen weeks, I’m here, and so much that is important to me…is not.  In the grand scheme of things, four months isn't a very long time; that's certainly true.  But, you see: Rishi isn’t here.  My friends aren’t here (except for Teresa, of course, but there are other people, obviously.)  
My church isn’t here.  Union isn’t here.  My guitar isn’t here.

It's mostly about church this morning, I'll admit.  I visited one in Eyre Square this morning, and it was fine.  But that's all it was - fine.  I had so much more than "fine"...and I want it back.  I know that God is everywhere, and that you can pray anywhere, and all that jazz...but I miss the community I know, in the place I know.  I miss being where the music echoes deep.  Instead of being the nourishment I badly needed, this morning was a lonely one.

I should take a breath.  Let me try to step out of this for a moment, and reach toward gratitude:
  • I am being given some community...take yesterday, for instance.  That was more than I could have asked for.
  • I have an apartment with coffee and heating and wifi and a shower door that's finally been fixed.  (It was off its track when we first moved in.)
  • Unlike many other students, I'm not here for an entire year.  This displacement is temporary.
Friends, here's the thing.  I would play my brother a song, to drink my mother's tea, to wander through Central Park with nowhere in particular to be, to drive up Rt. 50 to see my friends in Saratoga, to play Fishbowl (especially the sound round) with my buddies at Wells (or anywhere, really).  I’d prefer any of those things to being here, five time zones away from everything that’s familiar and easy.  I’ve experienced enough Irish culture, thanks - I’ve learned plenty, for example, about how frustrating it is to look and sound different.  And that's ironic, because I hardly ever feel “different” at home...but then again, at home, I’m not a tourist, and my "American accent" is scarcely an accent at all.  Is it normal to feel this incompetent, I wonder, or am I actually supposed to be playing the starry-eyed tourist?  Am I doing this “visiting student” thing wrong because I’m not spending every evening exploring my inner party animal at bars and nightclub, like so many of the other students are?  Is it normal to be this homesick, this early?

A sidenote about alcohol: I have no problem with the occasional beer or two in a social setting (because I know my limits and can drink responsibly), but this isn't exactly my scene.  I never felt the pressure to party when I was in middle and high school, so perhaps it took a bit longer to hit home with me.  What it comes down to is this: I admit that I want to feel accepted by the other Union students here, but I don't want to go out just to feel like I'm part of the group.  Thank goodness for my mother's persistence in teaching me the whole "jumping off a bridge" lesson..

Back to my original point.  Look, friends - what I'm getting at is that the Irish are friendly, for sure, and that’s all well and good.  But I’m irritated with myself for not knowing their brand of English[1] like I know my own, this campus like I know Union’s, or my way around their place like I know my way around my places.  And just so you know, I’m perfectly aware that I’m being both irrational and unfair with myself in all of this.  I know, too – in my head – that perhaps I should be giving myself time to adjust, room for the necessary learning curve, space to be different because different is okay…but my heart hasn’t caught up with my head quite yet.  For now, I guess I ought to keep reminding myself that it will catch up.

A few days before I left, K – a friend with exceptional self-awareness – mentioned that one of the most important things to do during periods of change is “to be aware of your rhythms”, and then to hold them close.  These rhythms, according to K, are what provide valuable stability in times of transition.  It seems obvious – that I should reach for things that stay the same when so much else is different – but I assure you, it’s more complex than you might think.  It’s more, for example, than listening to the same music I play on slow weekend mornings at Union[2], or even settling in with a cup of tea when I know my mum’s getting in from work and doing the same.  It's more than a photograph, or a handwritten letter, or even knit slippers from a close friend who knows I love those crazy-fuzzy socks and found the next best thing.  All of those things are helpful in themselves, but they’re more quick fixes than they are “rhythms”.  A better example of a “rhythm” is quiet time in the mornings.[3]  It's not always profound or immediately rewarding, but it’s certainly steady…and for that, I’m continually grateful.  I’m not about to let this habit go, and am vividly aware that I need more like it.

All the same…I miss so much of what (and who) I don't have here.  I’d like to go home now, pretty please...

[1] Instead of the word “question”, they prefer the word “query”.  And where an American might say, “Welcome to” an orientation session, the university, or something like that, they say, “You are very welcome” to the same.  “Thank you” is more often heard as “Thanks a million!”  These differences seem petty…but hearing about them once (from me) is much different than hearing them many, many times a day (from the Irish).
[2] Examples, if you're interested: Josh Groban, Indelible Grace, Norah Jones…
[3] And I mean first thing in the morning...after I've made my coffee, that is.

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