It’s been raining an abnormal amount on the Gold Coast. My Australian friend told me this isn’t “quite proper.” I thought so. After all, I remembered the tourist websites boasting 300 days of sunshine a year when I looked them up last spring. There was a week when we got incredible thunderstorms almost five nights in a row. This week there are expected downpours almost every day. Walking home from school today, I was pelted with flash-flooding rain. The winds whipped my bare legs freezing cold. It felt like a bitter, wet and gray November day back home. My backpack was rapidly becoming more and more soggy as I sloshed through the streets towards my vacated, lonely apartment. My roommates are in Bali, Indonesia. I wondered if they ever have class. The winds changed direction, smacking the rain straight into my face and soaking my shorts. I thought that I should laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. But I realized that I actually didn’t want to laugh. I tried, but to match the unrelenting rain tears poured out instead.
Either it is a frightening or comforting thought, but being here has forced me to accept that if there isn’t sunshine and rainbows every day in Philadelphia, sorry kid, there’s not going to be a pot of gold waiting for you at every corner here either (maybe try Ireland next time). It’s not that I have experienced any actual issues here. My roommates are wonderful. My classes are fine. I’ve had plenty of adventures and am beginning to form a friend group from the university. There have been some challenges, of course, but most have been of a trivial nature. Just this past week I had to withdraw from my community internship course because the organization was unable to give me the hours required for me to pass the class. I never wanted to boast a suspicious “W” on my transcript, but there was nothing I could do. There’s also been the challenge of feeling lonely in my apartment. Most of the time, my roommates are out with boys they have met, traveling, or off somewhere of which I have no idea. It gets quiet and although I once believed that I love solitude, this for sure was a long-held misconception on my part. But all in all, there have been no tangible barriers to a great experience. Nothing real to destroy my joy.
The barriers that hold me down are instead the same abstract ones that infiltrate the inner workings of my mind in Philadelphia. The same worries and fears that plague my thoughts in the states are the ones that have not failed to resurface on the Gold Coast. After living two months 10,000-some-miles away from home, I can now no longer hastily assign to my anxieties a location-based blame. I see clear the fact that my lingering, badgering worries are a problem incredibly personal to my own being, and incredibly intangible. Although this is frightening- what do I do, if the cause of distress in my brain is and always has been a product of myself- it is affirming. I can begin to work on my pestering thoughts, start to diminish my self-disdain and cultivate a self-compassionate mindset. Maybe the issue has never been anything but the habitual way I choose I choose to see myself and the way I choose to judge my every step. Maybe- I’m not sure yet- the real issue lies in perspective, a perspective that could benefit from a change.
No one likes to admit that not every day of study abroad is going to be the best one. Sometimes there’s a week or a few weeks that with-hold the more sanguine experience that everyone expects when boarding the plane to their destinations. The expectation put on study abroad (just like almost everything else in life) creates an immense pressure to enjoy every moment of every day. I don’t even believe that “enjoyment” and “happiness” are the whole point of things anyway. I don’t know much about the human body, but my three years of studying biology would tell me that human beings just don’t have enough dopamine for that kind of sky-high existence. We’re not made for it. And because we are not biologically created to experience every day of study abroad, or of the year, or of our lives in awe and wonder and joy, I venture to say there is nothing wrong with a few April showers. Even cloud nine has to rain at some time.