I’ve been making a conscious effort with any new friends/non-study abroaders to not talk about my Erasmus exchange. Did you know I spent a year abroad? But, as many people have asked and I’ve failed to articulate, I think it might just be easiest to write how I’m feeling returning to Durham. Put simply, when I left at the end of second year I wasn’t in a great place for many reasons.
My wardrobe consisted of oversized, stained college stash hoodies and a rotation of about four pairs of leggings with run-down black Nike trainers. My mental state was floating somewhere between existential dread and trying to find my way back into a spiritual practice. Physically, if you are what you eat: I was a large Papa John’s margarita with extra garlic sauce that had been rumbled around too much in the back of the delivery van (I think this is a metaphor for gym bunny/carbivore - maybe?). Emotionally I was exhausted, strung out with bs anxiety and lacking the motivation to get out of bed let alone spend the necessary time on my social life or assignments.
Coming back there was a part of me that was dreading I would immediately revert back to that version of Sam I didn’t want to be friends with. In reality, this fear brought up a lot of emotions for me about my rocky journey to become who I am today. I believe a large part of moving on from your past is accepting the mistakes and weird decisions you make along the way. For a long time I stopped writing this blog and when my mentor asked me why I explained that most of the time I felt like I was writing to a younger, more troubled version of myself and that I didn’t like that person enough to keep writing to them. Wow that feels like even more of a load of rubbish typing it out.
Honestly, though that’s how I feel most of the time. I feel frustrated with how slow my progress has been, I judge the person I was when I was struggling and if anyone hits a nerve with me a spiral just like 13-year old me would’ve done. You know I’m talking about: cheese pizza and cookie dough ice cream served with a slice of self loathing. The minute I finish the binge I proceed to hate myself more than I had before because not only was I reminded of my past mistakes I judge current me that I’m still not fully recovered. Thankfully, reaching out to new and old friends has helped me to diffuse these toxic internal dialogues. But, I’ve also been known to just let them play out like an old song that I probably shouldn’t be listening to anymore - it’s comfortable in a weird way.
So, when these new acquaintances ask me what it’s like being back in Durham, I spew out some line about it being the ‘bubble’ that I’ve missed but have a love/hate with. But is this ‘bubble’, I’m seemingly so obsessed with, really just the culmination of my disdain for my 19 - 20-year old self. Sometimes it feels like I’m back in high school again when I see the Freshers in their perfectly polished outfits with Insta-worthy eye shadow or even the sports teams with their toned calves. I feel their eyes glaring at me but it’s probably all in my head. The reality I’ve concocted of everyone perpetually judging me is probably just the judgey part of myself I’ve tried to disown.
The truth is, Durham’s only a bubble if you let it suffocate you. Just like everything in life comes down to your perception of the reality. Maybe if I write that out on a blackboard a gazillion times I’ll finally internalise it. I’m working on it. I’m working on not judging my past self and my current self. I’m working on accepting my fear of reverting back in time, so I don’t stunt my future progress. And I’m working on not taking it to heart if old friends don’t want to hang anymore - they can probably pick up from my vibes that we don’t have anything in common anymore. Bye bye old Sam - I’m trying to love you I promise.
All my love, Sam