In Gainesville, I take Saturdays off. Saturday is my day to sleep in/do chores/catch up with friends at the adorable coffee shop across the street from the library. Of course, living in Brussels has made it difficult for me to have days off. I’m generally sleep deprived, lacking in groceries, and constantly trying to balance my travel schedule and workload. For the last 5 weeks, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time for a day off. This is my first weekend not traveling at all since I’ve gotten used to living here (I don’t count the first two weeks of no travel, as they were lost to the haze of jetlag and alien surroundings). This is the first weekend during which I’ve gotten a minute to catch my breath. This weekend, I took Saturday off.
I slept until 1 pm, watched tv, and met up with some friends at the local cat cafe, only a few steps from the botanical gardens. When I woke up Sunday morning, I realized, with mixed horror and relief, that I’d gotten back into my routine. Despite of being across an ocean, I’d gotten back into the same routine I’d carefully crafted in my years as a college student. It scares me, of course, because it proves to that nagging voice in the back of my head that I’m really not very adventurous at all. But it also gives me a sense of comfort. Humans are, after all, creatures of habit. It relieves me to know that, despite of being across an ocean, I will not allow my life to spiral quickly into chaos at the first symptoms of boredom. Unfortunately, my sense of relief was short lived. It was soon replaced by nostalgia for a place I have not even left yet.
As I went about my chores this weekend, buying groceries, keeping track of my expenses, doing homework, I began to feel introspective. I began considering what I was going to do with my last week and a half in Brussels, why I had come in the first place, and how I would feel when I returned to America. I thought back to the first few days, the first few weeks I spent discovering this city, this country. I began to feel nostalgic. I realized I missed the days when it was all so new and exciting. Why did I come here? After years of planning this trip, I had lost sight of why I wanted to be here in the first place. At first, I comforted myself. “Isha you’re here because you love Europe.” “Isha you’re here because you wanted to practice your French.” “Isha you’re here because you’ve never been to Belgium.” I peeled away every layer of what I didn’t know was pretense until I came to the truth:
“You’re here because you wanted to prove something.”
The truth is, I came to Belgium to prove that I could do it alone. Whatever it is. But now that I’ve proven it, I realize that I don’t want to do it. I came to Belgium to prove that I didn’t need anyone else. But now I know how much I don’t want to be alone. It may seem like common sense to you. Of course no one wants to be alone. But to me, a woman who has struggled with her own independence for years, it’s an epiphany. In my time here I’ve realized that, even though I can do everything alone, I don’t have to want that. I don’t have to be alone to be strong.