Takeoff

What to pack for a semester of the unknown? A Berlin City Guide and a pair of Birkenstocks, for sure.

Tomorrow I will board a flight to Berlin, and I’m terrified.

It isn’t the flight itself that scares me. I’ve always been a calm flyer: I’m not afraid of turbulence and since I’m not smuggling any contraband, customs should be a breeze. It’s not the German that scares me. I’ve coped alone before in foreign cities that operate in a language I have only a half-competent grasp of. It’s not even the fear of loneliness that has been keeping me up at night. I’m actually good at solitude. In fact, needing some alone time is one of the reasons that I’m taking the semester off to travel in Europe. Amidst the Yale flurry of papers and problem sets, pressures self-imposed and otherwise, it’s become hard to concentrate on what I want (to be a writer) and how I plan to achieve this dream (immersing myself in new experiences, unexpected experiences, observing, partaking, reflecting). So I’m removing myself from this environment for a while and throwing myself head first into a new one. My Sagittarian wanderlust is absolutely giddy.

But it’s not easy. What I am terrified of, still, after turning in the request for a leave of absence and buying a plane ticket and consulting all my mentors, is that this is the wrong thing.

See, my entire life I have been plagued by the need to do right.

Not in a moral sense, though I try to be a good person. Rather I constantly worry about taking the next step into my life, scared that a decision will end up being a move backward or sideways rather than forward. Every action or non-action feels like a collision course with an outcome that I’ll have to integrate into my future self. In second grade, I worried about forever being the girl who misspelled “suprise.” Now I worry about turning fifty and still being the woman who took a semester off as an undergrad. To travel in Europe. In my mind, it already sounds clichéd.

But I’m sick of the futile planning ahead. I’m tired of trying to guess what people will think later instead of listening to what I think now.

This semester, for me, is about more than the traveling, the writing, the seeing and doing everything that will be exponentially harder to see and do in a few years. The next three months aren’t about what looks right. They’re about what feels right. Clichés and all.

And what feels right right now is a suitcase full of outlet adapters, maps, notebooks and pens, a German dictionary, three color copies of my passport, clothing that can transition from winter to balmy spring and my Nikon D90.

On Tuesdays, I’ll post about where I’m at and where I’m headed, the excitements and the disappointments, and especially the surprises.

Tomorrow evening when the plane is climbing higher and the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign blinks off, I’ll probably still be terrified. And I can’t wait.

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