When I started writing these year abroad posts I was convinced I’d do them weekly, so I could look back at all the fun things I’d done. Might as well set myself up to be a constant disappointment I suppose.
I guess it makes sense to start with the bad, right?
I had my first big year abroad cry!!! From talking to friends over here I’ve discovered that this is actually quite normal, especially around the one month mark. For me it was caused by a lot of things; exhaustion, loneliness, feeling very anxious all of a sudden and probably in some part my girlfriend’s departure for England. It was shit, I won’t sugar coat it. Crying at 2am when you have work the next morning and being on the second floor of an apartment building where the only way to get some air is sticking your head out of the window is far from ideal. But, honestly I think I needed it. I think I needed that release of emotions to realise that I couldn’t just spend my whole year breaking down every time it got hard, and it did take a few days but I picked myself up.
How? Well, I had to get out and start doing things. A big part of that has been making friends, because I know myself, I am not very good at being alone for long periods of time anymore. I haven’t done so great at making friends with any French people yet, but I have discovered the 30 odd people from Durham who are also hanging out in Paris at the moment, and a few other British Erasmus people. It was awkward to start with, spending time with people I know just about well enough that it’s weird that we never talked properly until leaving Durham, but after a drink or two things always smooth out. The best thing for me was having people to sit down with and talk about the things about a year abroad that are hard, or even the things about Paris that are hard. I talk to my friends from home about this, but as much as they are there to support me, they can never truly relate to my complaints about the failings of French bureaucracy or how much I hate the RATP for so many reasons. It was nice to have something to bond over, even if it is just for a few drinks every now and again.
What was slightly more unexpected was the reappearance of my creativity. I used to write poetry when I was younger, but I haven’t done for almost four years now, so I thought that part of my life was done. Then I took myself out for coffee the other weekend, planning on reading, but ended up pouring my heart out into verse. Since then I’ve written ten or so poems, about everything from politics to emotions and in everywhere from the laundrette to the Musee d’Orsay. I even went to a slam night on Monday, and oh my God I have never felt more inspired. I feel like I have so much to say all of a sudden, and finally the tools to say it all again. I think I would like to perform some stuff at that slam night before I leave. It’s a bit of an ask for someone with anxiety who hasn’t been on a stage since GCSE Drama, but I just have this feeling somewhere in me that says I need to.
I promise I won’t end with yet more doom and gloom, but I had another mild breakdown, this time a lot shorter. Last weekend I went out for drinks for a friend’s birthday, and came home unreasonably drunk for someone who’d only had four pints. And the next day I just felt like garbage. Not even in the sense of being hungover (although I was), but just feeling so upset and sad and overwhelmed. I nearly cried in a Metro station for fuck’s sake (and it wasn’t even Chatelet, a place so confusing it makes me want to cry on an average day). Alcohol is a depressant kids!!
The big upset this time was mostly because I’ve been obsessing over watching everything play out in Durham and not being there to experience it physically. I spent hours on Sunday morning just scrolling through what people were doing back home and waiting for people to respond to my messages. That’s not a fucking life is it. I live in PARIS for fucks sake, one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in Europe, and I have absolutely no academic commitments. I can’t waste that, so I’ve put limits on my social media for now at least and I’m trying to let myself build a life here, rather than spending a whole year miserable.
It is never going to be easy to be physically far away from the things and people I hold dear, but it also doesn’t have to be impossible. I feel like I’ve learned from my dramatic meltdowns and I’m going to go forward better as a result. Either that or I’ll have another cry again soon, stay tuned to find that one out.