I’ve been in Boston for my Fulbright program for nearly five months now. I came with fears trolling me and a quest for novelty. It’s now old for many, but for me it still is the New World. I didn’t miss home, I came with a two-way ticket and I knew precisely when I’m going back. Instead, I’m starting to miss Boston and my life here … in anticipation. Those of you who cling (you know, as opposed to let go, detach, accept, float on the surface of things) to moments, people, and places know what I’m talking about 😉 I was scared and excited in my first days, like on the verge of despair for every hassle and yet so curious about everything, so eager to know more, to remember every word new to me, to befriend people. The fears have quickly subsided and, for a while, let’s say starting October until sometime in December, I had a window of time when I was truly happy. I call it the joy of no expectations. The joy of losing yourself. It’s a precious gift I haven’t had in a long, long time. Why is that?
- Take a break from yourself
Your identity, your personality, your fears are known to no one. Imagine that, being able to change the story and become someone else. Keep the good, lose the tail. This was so much easier in a new place, with new people (your know, like the New World metaphor?). I found the social relations here bright and shiny, I became a nicer person and, as if looking at myself from above, I saw a girl building a social life from scratch, taking initiatives in conversations, arguing for her point for view, shining and spreading her joy on social media. This is no country for tears, it’s about social shining, about being considerate and giving your best. Once I went to a bar to have a drink and people just talked to me, not guys looking for a hookup, but people who were curious and wanted a chat. You don’t have to prove yourself for people to be nice to you, like at home.
[We, as Romanians, are so quick to judge other cultures to be cold, but, at least in comparison, we’re as cold as ice. Sure, our ties run deep and we bound so profoundly in close relations, but to strangers, we are cold. You have to pass endurance tests before we find it in our hearts to be nice to you, to smile a proper smile and give you a chance. Oh, I know what we Romanians say to that: the American way is superficial, and people don’t really care about you. Yep, they don’t, but I’m here for only six months, so no time for passing tests. A little superficial charm suits me just fine].
Ah, and also, when you’re NOBODY (not in a derogatory way, but like…when people don’t know you and have no expectations, and you have no established identity in the eyes of others), it’s so much easier not to care what others might think 😉 so yes, I was a different person here, I dare say better.
Now, sure, you find yourself eventually, or, shall I say, your SELF finds you and haunts you, it creeps in, it hits you in the head and laughs in your face: “You really thought you got rid of me?”. Your brain is out to get you. The New World is not so new anymore and the magic is gone. But I’ve had my share and it’s been worth it.
- Do something new every day
Not as a motivational, „change your life in 12 steps” line, but literally. I did that, a lot. I did something new every day, until at one point I didn’t. You find your routine eventually, but it takes a while, thankfully. I was such an explorer when I got here…and a while after that. But you know, with the cold and the long nights, it’s so much easier to go to places you already know. And yeah, I guess I’m the type who clings and attaches, so well, novelty can resist me.
- Go to new places
I’ve been to amazing places, with wonderful people. I would travel north and south and east and west all across the USA (but, eventually, I would come back to Boston). That doesn’t wear off. I want to keep doing it. It’s soothing, refreshing, joyful, intellectually challenging. What more can you want? You know the America effect? I went to Plymouth Rock (small town in Massachusetts, where the Mayflower ship landed) at a Fulbright organized event, to see the Thanksgiving parade. It was cold and I was grumpy. I was rolling my eyes. The parade?? Come on, really? These people take themselves so seriously, this is so American bla bla. And the parade comes. At the end I was cheering and clapping like a kid. That’s the spirit.
- No demands, no expectations
It’s Saturday evening and I have no plans. So what? I’m so new here. So I’ll just go out by myself or I won’t, and either way will be just fine because that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a new place, right? Can’t just as easily say that when the “I don’t have a life” syndrome is circling me on Saturday nights in Cluj, where I’ve been living for 15 years. Just live and let live. Things will come. Ironically, having been single for a lot helped me here. I didn’t feel weird doing things by myself. That’s natural for me. Going to lunch or dinner or a concert on your own is just fine. It’s how it’s supposed to be. I haven’t been lonely here. I talked to people at home and I have people here. My roommates also helped. My lower demands also helped. That also didn’t wear off, I can still give myself a break :). I predict the “demands” would kick in in about a year, won’t be here to see them coming, but I’ll find them right where I left them, in Romania.
So, what have I learned so far? Fear novelty if you have to, but embrace it when it comes. It can bring a lot of freedom, and, in lack and in spite of a better phrase, freedom is great 🙂
P.S. I think I somehow got the right pronunciation of my name so that the people at Starbucks don’t misspell it (finally).