Growing Up (Away From Home)

You know that dream you have when you feel like you’re falling? Remember the part when you’re about to jump, or the moment right before someone pushed you? That’s what leaving home was like: a fall. Not the suicidal type but the “I’m ready” type ­­- scary but exciting, my parachute lined with everything I’ve learned from family, friends, teachers. All grown up and ready to leave the nest!

But oh-my-Lord – I’ve just realized that I’m still not done growing up! I mean, I thought I was all grown up when I started driving; felt even more grown up when I had to pay for gas from my own wallet! Granted it didn’t feel very grown up when I ran to daddy to beg RM10 for phone credit after – but we’re digressing. The point is, the parachute did not open on its own, I had to pull on it.

Okay, so let me explain. I signed on for the mobility program to study in Nottingham’s UK campus for a whole year, thinking ‘I’m all grown up so I can do this, be over 14,000 km away from everything that is familiar … no problem!’ In my head were a few pictures: a) me in a cute red beret with matching gloves, a scarf and the hottest pair of boots a girl could get on her allowance; b) travelling, backpacking, hitchhiking, the typical Euro trip in movies and books, where there’s a main character thrown into some insanely cliché adventure; c) coming home with a letter from the Dean, along the lines of ‘what a bright, talented young student you are!’ and ‘Nottingham will pay for wherever your academic life takes you next!’ In short, think Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Hobbit and Homeless to Harvard.

So what’s this got to do with growing up? Well, you can see that those pictures aren’t exactly … mature? Likely? Now that I’m here, I realized that I didn’t get a Hogwarts letter, I didn’t even get to see platform 9 ¾ – I took the bus to Nottingham. After settling into my room I also realized my cupboard isn’t a doorway to some magical land. And I only have three pairs of boots – there goes my dream of being labeled as ‘that lil’ international fashionista’ (what, could’ve happened!)

Realizing that some things just won’t happen is part of growing up, unfortunately. I’m not saying I’ve given up looking for my adventure. I’m just saying I’ve had to make mental compromises with myself to achieve certain goals. Looking back at these two months I’ve been here, it’s worked out quite well. I’ve met so many different people, done some amazing things: ever been to a pub that’s IN a church? Or a pub that hides its toilets behind a bookcase, that swings open to reveal a secret passageway (not as funny after you’ve had two pints and the belt you’re wearing decides to shrink)? I’ve even tried gliding, which is like flying a plane only with no engine, so the plane gets catapulted into the air and then you just glide your way down! I have not, however, hitchhiked around all of Europe. That might not be possible, what with studying and all, but maybe a short trip to Paris and Rome or Venice and Barcelona for now? *gets up and empties penny-filled pocket into “bite-sized adventure” jar*

I feel more responsible now than I’ve ever felt before. I’ve been infected with the idea that just reading a study from a Psychology journal (okay fine, watching movies online while attempting to read) and drinking green tea on a Friday night is okay with me. Back home me, my friends and the boyfriend (let me slide it in – long distance is miserable) used to go out and only come home after having breakfast together at 6/7am (WHY aren’t there any 24-hour food places here?). I miss going wild (and eating a full meal at 4am) but I’m not fussed over drinking till I’ve passed out anymore. Maybe because I’m so comfortable with the crazy memories I have, I’m not bothered with looking for that here? Maybe I’m looking for a different, more grown up, adventure here? Or maybe it’s because waking up in the morning hoping that I still have my clothes on would not be the best of ideas over here, seeing as I am after all, fully responsible for myself now.

Amrita Preet

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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