Today marks one month in Vienna. By and large, there has been silence on my end. I promised endless photos and blog posts, and yet here is the first of either category.
It is difficult to put into words my experience of the past month. The transition into a new apartment was surprisingly smooth and easy. When I first arrived, time stretched out into infinity, and I wondered, for the first time in a long while, how to fill my days meaningfully. I felt sharp pangs of homesickness, which arrived suddenly and unexpectedly, causing my breath to shorten and my eyes to grow wet.
I wandered aimlessly through the streets of Vienna, with no particular purpose or direction. I ate amazing vegan food and engaged in conversation with strangers. I felt lost and unlike myself.
I hitchhiked to Germany and felt more alive than I had in the previous couple weeks. Between hitchhiking, dancing and reuniting with old friends, I felt a return to my adventurous, fun-loving self.
I felt better, and more able to meet the demands of each day. With this newfound energy, I dove headfirst into volunteering, at one of the train stations where there is a constant flow of refugees passing through. I felt insignificant in my role, merely handing out bread or water to those continuing on to the next stage in their long and arduous journey. But I recognized my capacity to engage with them as equals, to hold a safe presence and acknowledge our common humanity in those split-second interactions. I looked into their eyes and I saw myself and loved ones. I saw the wide spectrum of the human experience — grief, hope, gratitude, pride, shame, joy — reflected in those countless pairs of eyes. And in some, there was the vacant, empty gaze that shook me deeply to the core, reminding me of my inability to understand the depth of what they have endured.
Coupling these intense, emotional experiences with the start of my program and my classes, I felt the onset of overwhelm. I recognized my need to slow down. I once again felt lost and unlike myself.
I confided in my wonderful roommates and new friends about this disoriented feeling. That helped some. I’m acknowledging that I need more time and space to adjust and fully grieve the loss of everything I left in California. I feel as though my body and soul have split, that my heart is scattered across the world.
I know that I need to move slowly and gently as I find my way back to the path toward myself. And so I’m asking for patience, from family and friends (here and around the world), as I navigate this complicated and messy process. And for positive thoughts and energies 🙂