Self-Discovery, Timing, Concerts, Mental Health, and Dating
I really can’t believe that my study abroad adventure is almost here. I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, but I never sought out resources or solidified my plans until the end of fall quarter of my second year. That fall quarter was probably the most difficult for me in terms of friendships and relationships and the falling out of such, which led me to question my worth as a friend and thus as a person.
The reason that was pivotal to me actually planning out my study abroad trip (going to the study abroad center — which is actually not very helpful at UCI FYI — , exploring program options, researching accessibility in terms of financial aid) was that I wanted to find myself. I know that sounds like the cheesiest shit ever (because it is), but it’s what it was.
Once finals week was over, I realized how stuck I felt. I didn’t feel like I belonged in any of the spaces I was involved with on campus. Even with just a quarter of experience of being in those involvements, I knew that I didn’t want to return to them the next academic year. I had no idea where to go next. Perhaps it was also the internalized mindset I carried of feeling the need to constantly busy myself with multiple aspects of work. I reevaluated my core values and what I wanted to get out of my college experience. I thought to myself, if I don’t have any commitments for the next academic year and if I want to really push myself in self-discovery, what better way than to study abroad? I had always dreamed of studying abroad before I graduated college anyway, especially being influenced by my older brother who also studied abroad during his undergrad. If I didn’t take this chance now to do it, when would I ever get the chance to do so again? I couldn’t let the opportunity slip away from me.
Perhaps by the time some of you read this, I’ll already be on the plane heading to Thailand or already be in my apartment in Bangkok (possibly having my 3rd existential crisis of the day). Many thoughts have traveled to the forefront of my mind as the date to fly to Thailand has come closer and closer.
Even since winter quarter, when I started planning and applying for this study abroad trip, I sometimes wondered, “What if I’m making the wrong decision? What if this is the wrong time to go? What if something bad happens after I leave home?” These questions have clouded my mind more this past week than before, filling me with anxiety and doubt. I’ve been forging many solid friendships this past 2018 year than before, and I feel like I’m leaving in the key formative months of close friendships. Did I really make the right choice?
With my fear of people always leaving me behind, it’s such a strange feeling to be scared of leaving others behind/on hold, leaving routine, even though this was my own choice. I try to remind myself that life back here in the U.S. will wait for me, especially the friends who value me enough to sort of let go of me just for a few months.
I’ve also been dreading missing all the events and concerts because I’m convinced that all of my favorite artists — after not releasing new music for years until now — plotted against me to go on tour in the U.S. while I’m abroad. That’s a more minor problem because I know that there’ll always be future shows, but it’s still prevalent in my mind.
I’m also worried about how I’ll be able to cope mentally while abroad. My panic attacks in particular have only increased in both frequency and intensity this year. I’m now at the point where I’m screaming uncontrollably and throwing my fists against the wall to cope (I know it’s unhealthy, don’t point fault to me). Almost every time I’ve had a panic attack, I’ve had close friends — usually my roommates — to help calm me down and literally hold me down to protect me from myself. I know that I’ll be more mentally vulnerable while abroad because it’s inherent with the experience, but to what extent will that be overbearing for me, with my depression and anxiety? I hope to learn how to cope healthily with my depression and anxiety in solitude — not that I absolutely must deal with it alone, but sometimes I’ll find myself alone in a panic attack or the likes and need to know how to deal with it in the moment. At the end of the day, the only person who’s there for me 100% of the time is myself.
How I’ve been countering these thoughts of self-doubt is reminding myself of how much progress and healing I’ve made since I first really started struggling mentally, which was in my senior year of high school, if I had to pinpoint a specific timeframe. I recently looked back at my Instagram posts from the past few years in a feed-cleaning spree, and I realized how utterly lost I used to feel. In more casual terms, I thought, “wow I was so fucking depressed.” I’m not saying that I’m all 100% better now, because I still have depressive episodes and pangs of anxiety, but now I know how to navigate them with more control. I used to let myself fester in self-hate and self-deprecation. Now I’m in a better state of mind to cope. With this retrospective mindset, I’m trying to hold my head high for the next few months that I’ll be spending abroad.
One last thing that I know I’ll be thinking a lot about while abroad is something I’ve been avoiding confrontation with pretty much all my life: my capacity to be in a romantic, exclusive, long-term relationship versus casual dating/talking. I’ve never really talked about this publicly. I think most of my blog posts so far have been centered on mental health and maintaining friendships. To keep it brief, because I don’t feel 100% comfortable yet talking transparently about this topic as I usually do with other topics, I was only recently exposed to casual dating/“talking” to people. In other words, I kinda forgot that the choices of commitment aren’t to limited to either being single and or being in a monogamous, exclusive, committed long-term relationship. This processing has come hand in hand with exploring my bisexuality, and it’s actually very uncomfortable — which is OK. It’s just that a lot of people I surround myself with aren’t familiar with anything other than straight-up committed, exclusive romantic relationships, so talking about it has been difficult for me. And this whole conversation is even more nuanced with my sexual trauma from last year.
I think the opportunity to casually date or even exclusively date has come up a number of times this past year, but the conversation always ended with me leaving the country in the fall, so nothing serious/long-term could be established. I was frustrated with myself at first — suppressing my need for attention (lmao), regretting my decision to study abroad, or a combination of the two. However, after a lot of conscious thinking, I realize that me studying abroad might be a sign that I need to reevaluate what I want for myself in terms of this whole dating scene or whatever. I’ve always had attachment issues with friendships and more intensely so with romantic relationships, and I’ve always acknowledged them, but I’ve never actually actively unpacked those issues. I hope that studying abroad in Thailand on my own terms will help me hash out those messy, complicated, probably deep-rooted issues.
I am so utterly terrified to embark on this journey and be removed from the comfortable nature of routine here in socal. But I’m trying to fixate on the growth and healing that I’ll foster for myself. I don’t necessarily know how that’ll manifest itself, but the only way I can find out is by embracing the process — the ugliness, the confusion, the embarassment, the silliness, the adventure, the serendipity of it all.