BY: DANI DUKE
It is just over three weeks since I arrived in Belfast, my new home for five and a half months. I am excited for the adventure that Northern Ireland will provide me with, but the process of getting here was not as easy as I thought it would be. So much planning went into my trip, and I still arrived with nowhere to live, and feeling pretty shaky emotionally. The act of leaving has proven numerous times to provoke physical tears from me, even when I want to leave. I’m not sure exactly why, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry almost the whole day leading up to my 9:30pm flight.
I have left my home and traveled by myself to live in a place, very far from where I was living. What does this mean for me? Does it say anything about myself? Does it say anything about my views, or allow me an insight into the experiences of other people? Or is it simply a decision I made? Will my compassion and understanding grow after my experience? Right now, I’m not sure. I hope so. But I’ll have to get back to you at the end of December.
Clearly, I have had a lot of time for self-reflection. A lot of things that were previously invisible to me, because I was used to them, are now much clearer, and quite fascinating to think about. For example, I have lived in the United States my entire life, specifically on the east coast. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, and then moved to Boston. One of my favorite things about the east coast has always been the changing of the seasons, and getting to experience each season. I can’t help but romanticize the seasons, and in my mind, they are more than just indicators of weather. Seasons both shape and hold my memories, and as one transitions out and the next season transitions in, we are granted the opportunity to reflect, let go, and move forward. So missing the thick heat of an east coast summer is more affecting than it may sound, because summer means so much more to me than the beach and flip flops. It is the feeling, taste, smell, of memories created. For years, I have saved my music playlists by season, each playlist titled a month or season as well as the year, the songs I was listening to during that time compiled into a digital folder. I can click on any obscure playlist, say Spring 2012, and remember exactly what I was doing, what my thoughts were at the time. Now I just have one playlist, called Belfast. I’ve heard it will be perpetually fall during my time here, so there will just be one group of memories created here. In fact, I probably will not even think of it as fall, since without the juxtaposition of different seasons, one all by itself does not need a label, it loses its distinction. My memories will instead be a mess of moments - the way my name sounds in every different accent here, wearing a raincoat everyday (and not even thinking of it as a “raincoat” anymore - it’s just my primary jacket), and late night Skype calls with friends and family who are hours behind me, as I struggle to stay awake in order to stay close to them.