Isn’t it devastatingly wonderful when a passage from a book seems to capture your life so perfectly? Thanks for that, Terry Pratchett.
By now I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about my time in England. “We get it! You were @CambridgeUK! Move on!” Have patience my dears, that is exactly what I’m trying to do here! But there is this little thing called closure and I’d very much like to try it out. You’ve already seen posts about my wonderful experiences, now I want you to see one about what I took away from them. I think we can all agree that as we live our lives and experience new places and people and things, we are influenced to change ourselves. We want to remember the little lessons we learned so we can incorporate them in our daily lives and hopefully pass them on to others.
To England, here are some of the things you influenced in me, I’ll try my best to pass them on, with love.
They’re everywhere! It has been a long summer of back and forth between deciding whether or not to Google the meaning behind blue doors in the UK (you’ll be happy to know that I’ve finally settled on not to) because everyone seems to have one. There must have been hundreds that my eyes stumbled across throughout my travels in England, Scotland, and Ireland. My own accommodation in Cambridge had a beautiful blue door (pictured above) as did every other house on Fitzwilliam Street. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of them. There is such a homey, welcoming vibe to blue doors. They remind me of the pineapple symbol in Newport. I felt like if I walked up and chapped on a random blue door, I’d be ushered inside and offered tea and cakes and a fascinating life story. There is just something so truly magnificent about them, I love them, I can’t wait to have one.
Appreciating My Surroundings
It’s easy to get caught up in a beautiful place when you’ve been told two dozen times that it’s beautiful. It’s a whole other matter to decide all on your own that you find your surroundings beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard not to appreciate King’s College for what it is – but there were also so many other tiny side streets along the edge of the River Cam or groupings of trees on the grounds of ancient estates in the countryside that felt infinitely more beautiful to me. A lot of other students chose to visit other cities on the weekend because they were on a quest to see something fantastic – they wanted the Sistine Chapel and the Eiffel Tower and the Remnants of the Berlin Wall. Which is totally fine! Do it while you can, I get that. But don’t disregard the seemingly insignificant places either. Surroundings mean more than just settings, too. It’s an incredible feeling to notice how genuinely gorgeous your friends’ smiles are, or the twinkle of a strangers eye when you make small talk with them. Don’t forget to appreciate where you are when you’re there. Take it in, smile and laugh to yourself, smile and laugh to others. Be there.
There’s a reason this rhymes with “Me Time.” Most mornings I followed the routine of waking up early, packing up my laptop, and heading round the corner to a nearby cafe for tea and toast. It helped me to ease into my day. Some mornings would be spent writing emails to my two best friends back in the States, some spent reading a book or an article for class. Sometimes I’d just cruise the internet for a bit. No matter what, I took the time to start the day off with me, myself, and I. That’s important. Refresh yourself before you jump in to life with others. Find a time of the day you want to give to yourself, even if its just for a quick cuppa.
In the same way that Me Time is important, social time with a really great group of people is just as high up there on the list. Every Tuesday, myself and four other wonderful darling beautiful women would take some time to go get a drink or two. We’d chat, we’d laugh (mostly to tears), we’d play, we’d tell stories, we’d get into all sorts of trouble. I relied on this day of the week because I knew that it would be a break from the bubble – I’d be away from classes and schoolwork and other students in favor of enjoying the little nooks of Cambridge pubs with incredible friends. The time we spent together was always on the lighter side. No one got into deep, existential conversations. We just made ourselves happy. That’s it. Tuesdays were pure happiness and I will forever cherish them. I hope to continue the spirit of Brewsday for a long, long while no matter where I end up in the world.
Provoking of Thoughts
Thought provoking discussions are all well and good but I like being talked at every now and then too. I especially like being talked at about really cool things I find genuinely interesting. I especially, ESPECIALLY like being talked at about really cool things I find genuinely interesting by really cool people who are genuinely interested in what they’re talking about! What I’m trying to say here is I loved my class lectures. I loved attending the additional plenary lectures (aka basically learning for fun since nothing required us to be there). I loved listening to my friends tell me stories about the experiences they’ve had in their lives or what they find fascinating. Being talked at creates the perfect atmosphere for introspection, which I crave more and more every day. Provoke your own thoughts instead of focusing so much on provoking the thoughts of others.
Being Comfortable With Yourself
This feels a little like a cheating point because duh! Everyone says that! Every person on the planet talks about how crucial it is to “Be You” but not everyone actually listens to those people. I like to think that at the ripe old age of 22, I’m pretty comfortable with the person I am. And more than that, I’m happy with the person I am. I wear my bright yellow Star Trek shirt around Dublin, a trip which I took all by lonesome to begin with, because I love it. Sometimes I still carry around a stick and pretend its a wand. I laugh at myself! I think that I’m hilarious because I crack me up, which is pretty important. I got comfortable with all of this over the summer and learned: Be You because You make You happy! Figure out what it is about yourself that makes you smile. I know that’s not easy to do, and that’s okay. You don’t have to do it right this second. But know that there are people out there in this world who will also smile at that thing and if you haven’t found them yet keep on moving until you do. And if you don’t ever find them, even better – you’re too cool for the rest of us anyways.
Sure, I ran into the odd Brit or two who seemed to have all the wrong opinions about Americans, but I avoided them as best I could and rejoiced in the dozens of other nice people I came across in the UK. I don’t think I’ve ever really spent time thinking about what it means to be hospitable and how it goes beyond just being friendly and welcoming. There is also a part of it, which the people of the UK really excelled at, that asks you to be unboundedly helpful. While writing this I attempted to provide some examples, but that could make up a whole other post in itself (it won’t – I won’t subject you to that – but it could). What I took away from all those people is that community is not just the place where you live, it’s the way you treat the people you’re surrounded by – and that means treating your neighbor of 5 years the same as the passerby American girl here for 3 days. Hospitality is important, being kind to one another is important, and realizing that a helpful act no matter how small can absolutely change someone’s day is the most important of all.