Thursday, May 24

Pre-Departure Blues

It's been a little while since my last post, and this is why: three more days 'til Tokyo.

This captures everything I feel at the moment.

It's crunch-time, and I am so stressed that I've been feeling the urge to simultaneously throw up and gorge on chocolate. I've been running (well, the weather has been a little icky, so I've technically been speed-walking) around, panicking as I try to tie up all of the loose ends and make sure everything is in order before I go.

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I'm a nervous (and paranoid) guy, and I've established a routine of chaos whenever I'm about to fly somewhere.
The cycle begins with list-making. Then I start actually doing what the lists tell me to do. Then I realize that I'm missing items, and I begin making more lists. And then I get paranoid and internally combust for a moment. And I start crying until I drown in a pool of tears. But then, I somehow get everything done, and all ends (relatively) well.
So it's not that I don't know that I'm just freaking out somewhat unnecessarily, which I tend to do often. (Have you noticed?) In fact, I feel rather certain that this whole trip will be peachy-keen in the end, as tends to be the case. And even though I'm letting my stress go completely out-of-whack and control my life, I know that all will work out. And this thought comforts me... momentarily, at least, before I resume my endless scurry to pack and gather all I need.

But there is something about the experience this time around that is a little different from my normal freak-out sessions. The panicking to get everything in order, to assemble all of my documents in one place, to have all of my luggage packed away nicely -- all of this is customary. But what is not customary is the nagging longing that I'm feeling.
It's a somewhat complex feeling. I want to travel, to submerge myself in the Japanese culture, and to eat the food (always a huge part of traveling), but my heart kind of sinks into my stomach when I think about going to Japan. It's as if my I'm facing an overwhelming wave of fear, and the pressure of the water is just crushing my body until my lungs collapse.

First, there's the prospect of being alone in a foreign place. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I will be making a complete fool of myself abroad for the entire stay. And I'm prepared to speak painfully bad Japanese for the first few weeks (and likely for the entire program, actually). But it'll be unnerving to be submerged in a culture that is so different from the one I face daily. I'm afraid that I'll offend a bunch of people there -- that I'll incur their hatred without even realizing and that they'll be too polite to point my faults out to me.
And then there's that sense of uncertainty -- of not knowing where I'm going, of being unfamiliar with navigation, of having to recalibrate my senses every other moment. It's unnerving to not know what I'm doing, especially since I tend to be a bit high-strung and like (read: need) to know what's happening.

And the other part of this is that I've had a really good summer with my friends so far, and I'm going to miss them. It's odd because I was a bit of a recluse last summer because I immersed myself in work, and I wanted to spend every other waking moment to myself because I just needed alone-time to recharge (which incidentally ended up stretching into the entire school year). But then this summer, I've been hanging out with friends for (what feels like) inordinate amounts of time.

See? I have at least one friend.

And at least two more!

See? I have friends... Maybe not during the semester, but definitely in the
summer, when everyone else is gone from campus. Wow, that makes sense.

And I guess I'm going through a bit of shock since it had been so long since I'd had free time for friends (read: "since I didn't have classes and work to consume my every waking moment"). And now, I'm going to miss that because I don't know anyone in my program. So I will have to make new friends, which is no easy feat for me, as I am painfully shy at first contact.
I think I just want to make these moments of tranquility and happiness last before the fall semester begins again and sweeps me away in a whirlwind of papers and exams and homework and readings. I don't want to depart from these sweet, halcyon summer days. I want to live in these moments forever -- these times of happiness without the looming threat of schoolwork (which will be replaced by work when I enter the adult world).
Also, I'm afraid that all of my friends will forget me or forget all of the fun they've had with me. In other words, I'm afraid that I won't have friends when I get back, which is absolutely stupid of me. But I can't help but to have this irrational (and completely dumb) fear.

But I guess it's up to me to make the most of my experience. So I'm going to keep my chin up in the face of all of the last-minute stresses I have, and I'm going to stay positive. I can't waste an opportunity like this even if I'm feeling all of these emotions.
Pre-departure blues or not, I'm not letting myself let this go to waste. Life's too short to be boring, and I intend to squeeze out as much happiness as I can from it.

Stress kit photo source: [UMN's site, apparently]

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