I hate change.
I am a creature of habit. I stop at the same Dunkin Donuts every morning at approximately 8 AM before heading to work. I go to the same yoga classes each week with the same teachers so I can predict the flow. I own twelve white shirts yet I keep buying them whenever I see one in a shop.
This past month has been really hard. As my semester in Dublin came to an end, I started counting down the days until I touched down on U.S. soil. I was ready for the comfortable familiarity of home and my family, along with sweet tea from Dunkin. I think it was just grass is greener syndrome. In Dublin, I was tired from traveling each weekend and stressed from finals – I have mad respect for the Irish. I’m not sure I could do more than one semester where the final essentially determined my entire grade. Also, the Irish study group theory as undergraduates – a chill still goes down my spine when I think back to my course on symmetry.
This past month has been a whirlwind of change.
I had only one week at home, where I spent most of the time in bed, before moving to Chicago to start my internship. I had never lived in a large city. I grew up in the suburbs of northern Indiana outside of a college town. I studied abroad in a country that could be described as ‘the Midwest of Europe’ (I coined that, trademark me). I have always daydreamed about the idea of living in a big city, and these past three weeks have shown me that I enjoy the fantasy more than the reality.
If I lived in Chicago I would have to do so outside of the Loop, in a neighborhood like Wicker Park or Old Town. Both are quieter residential areas, with fantastic shopping and eateries, with similar environments to the sweetness that I grew up with.
It has been tough for me to adjust to the loudness and mild chaos of the city. I hate the mildly persistent stank of weed and the rude, touchy people who think they’re flattering rather than harassing. I missed Dublin for its people, its size and its coziness. My heart still aches for it every day – much more than I thought I would.
But with each day that passes, it gets a little bit easier. The city has gotten smaller, and I have been here long enough to establish a few go-to spots. I know where I can get the best caffeinated horchata (Goddess and the Baker) and a fantastic breakfast sandwich (Cafecito). I stumbled upon the American sister to my all-time favorite Dublin cafe, KC Peaches, and that made the start of this week almost a thousand times better.
Struggling with the adjustment made it, and still makes it, much easier to be hard on myself. I was frustrated and upset with myself – I write so much on resilience yet I couldn’t be resilient. Recently, a wonderful friend of mine told me that I needed to stop being so self-critical. I am thankful for a friend that is willing to tell me so instead of letting me put myself down.
I value kindness so incredibly much. I valued it in the Irish people, and I miss it in the daily big-city hustle and bustle. I value every smile I get from a stranger or a show of manners. I value the small reminders that I am important from both people I know and don’t know.
I value kindness more than almost anything else, yet I refuse to show it to myself. A year later, I can still be as hard on myself and my body as I was when I was rapidly dropping weight.
I really do think it’s easier to put myself down than it is to build myself up. Building myself up takes effort – it forces me to recognize that I contain joy and love. It forces me to work towards being a bearer of good in an ever confusing and conflicted world.
Building myself up means that I can’t give up.
I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. I enjoy my internship and the people I’ve met, and I really like going to work each day. I’ve decided to challenge myself on two ends: budgeting (no more clothes! White or otherwise!) and kindness towards myself.
If I can’t be kind, then I can at least not be horrible – and right now, that might be all I can muster.
Last Saturday, I participated in a yoga and meditation workshop that centered around the theme of rewriting my self contract. It was based on the idea that we enter into subconscious contracts with ourselves and those around us. At the end, I had to write a new self contract for myself, and I included valuing my self-worth, embracing my independence after the end of a long-term relationship and continuing to search for good.
I’ve been working towards being kind to myself for years now, and I don’t see it magically happening anytime soon. Until then, I’ll keep going. Until then, I’ll keep waking up and getting coffee before work. Until then, I’ll let myself daydream about the past and the future. Until then, I’ll keep smiling at strangers. Until then, I’ll keep doing my best.
Until then, I’ll keep adjusting. I may be a creature of habit, that’s a habit I’m willing to break.