10 months ago, I sat in my apartment, surrounded by travel documents and dried-out highlighters as I revised study abroad application essays and scrambled to find a passport photo in which I did not look like an exhausted axe murderer. I was having weekly anxiety attacks, going through a really rough patch of seasonal depression, and living almost entirely on a diet of black beans and Greek yogurt. My hair started falling out in the shower, I was completely overcommitted to work, class, and extra activities, and I was getting at best six hours of sleep a night.
10 months later, I am not depressed, less anxious than ever, and sitting in a very cute Airbnb in Melbourne, quite full of Ethiopian food (red lentils and rice to be exact) and some fancy gelato. I am a resident of Dunedin, New Zealand. I live on Cumberland Street and there’s a little patch of daisies in my backyard that I like to pluck at when I read in the grass. There are two windows in my bedroom; one faces the Otago clocktower, and the other looks out onto a very perky magnolia tree. My room smells like vanilla because I like to light candles while I paint, and under my bed there is a sushi-print sock that I am too lazy to retrieve.
I live thousands of miles away from my entire family and many friends, who I have not seen for more than five months, but I am okay with that. I miss them from time to time, but I know that we love one another and will see each other eventually. I like having a residence that is temporary, not living in the same place for more than a year at a time before going on to the next. I think that after I graduate I am going to keep this up for a little while, go to grad school somewhere far from Philadelphia and travel as much as possible while I’m young. I love to be with people, but I also don’t mind being alone.
People are always coming up with excuses for not doing things, even things that they’ve thought endlessly about. Before I left for New Zealand, there were hundreds of possible adverse scenarios that I came up with that could’ve prevented me from going. How do you get a visa? What if I get really sick and don’t have enough money to fly home? What if I’m miserable and hate it? As much as these thoughts plagued me, I knew that NOT going to New Zealand would be much worse than not trying to go at all. Even negative experiences produce meaningful thought, experience, and perspective. Living in New Zealand could’ve been a complete disaster, but it ended up being the single most important experience of my life thus far. I feel so much more comfortable with myself, have a much clearer vision of how I want to live my life in the upcoming years, and think in a healthier, more optimistic way.
My final message is simple: just DO things. Don’t overthink! Don’t procrastinate! If you truly are interested in doing something, use every means possible to make it happen, go with the flow, and enjoy the outcome. Doing something is better than worrying and doing nothing. A few bumps on the way to completing the thing of your dreams is better than a regretful life. My dad had an opportunity to live in England for 6 months when he was younger and he STILL regrets not going 30 years later. “No regrets” is the phrase to live by!
Finally, I would like to make one small, shameless plug for New Zealand. This entire blogging experience has been my love letter to the country where I felt like a full-blown adult for the first time in my life. I know that the flight from the United States to New Zealand is a brutal one, but oh mama is it worth it. New Zealand is the land of minimalism, environmental mindfulness, “tramping,” and pure happiness. The water is more blue, the air smells more sweet, and the grass is more green that any place I have and probably ever will visit. There is such a sense of wholesomeness and joy that permeates every sheep-ridden valley and snow capped peak of this gorgeous country. Thinking about leaving makes me want to cry, but I have no doubt that I will return in the (hopefully not too distant future). New Zealand, I love you long time. Thank you for all you have given me.