From Ghana to Vancouver to Paris to Insanity

I’m once again on the brink of going completely insane. Tuesday my application for a semester abroad in Vancouver is due. I’ve obsessed over this whole thing for more than half a year now and I’m getting so close to actually ridding all of these stupid forms and papers from my desk and my mind – and at this very moment I’m totally chickening out.

Flashback to about 2.5 years ago a few months before high school graduation: It’s going on midnight, I’m sitting at my desk in front of my laptop, which is covered in Word documents planning out my “I need to get out of Germany and do something crazy NOW”-trip to Ghana. At this point my imagination has transitioned from the phase where you see every damn thing through rose-tinted glasses to the phase where that utopian image is brutally shattered. This is normally also the stage where fear kicks in. Major fucking fear. In the case of Ghana this fear arrived about a week before departure while packing and repacking my brand-new globetrotter backpack (with too much medication and not enough t-shirts). I was scared to death. After almost a year of planning this trip, it had suddenly occurred to me that I would actually be leaving my family, my home, my dog, my nice and comfy safe spaces and my comfort zone for Eight. Months. Turns out, those were the best eight months of my life up to now and I would have killed myself for not getting on that first plane from Munich to Hamburg. But by the time I boarded the second plane to Dubai, I was already exhausted, and ready to bawl my eyes out. Since I was crammed inside a metal bird with too many strangers at that moment, I saved the bawling for the first week I spent in Ghana. I went through the first culture shock in my life, and it wasn’t pretty. But after that first week, things began to be totally awesome. I started adapting to the new circumstances and basically learned how to survive on my own in a strange country with amazingly awesomely weird people (my fellow volunteers, some of whom are still my bestest friends) around me. And after two months of that I went to the US and to Costa Rica and then back to the US and I survived it all and it was the coolest time ever!

Flash-back-forward to today: My illusionary pink bubble (wait – I hate pink. Let’s make it orange or something.) was viciously shattered by a documentary we watched for our Canadian Culture seminar about the punk scene in Vancouver. I suddenly realized that Vancouver was actually a city. And cities are seldom perfect environments for dreamers and  idealists and people with a completely skewed picture of foreign places, as myself. (For some reason, I would usually describe myself as a pretty hardcore realist, but somehow this feature just disappears when it comes to traveling.) Cities are dirty, cities can display radical inequalities, cities can be dangerous – life can be dangerous! I think I’m actually suffering from Paris Syndrome, only like a year in advance of the actual encounter.

So I have to turn in a whole stack of papers on Tuesday. My letter of motivation still needs a more creative introduction, something right between “a semester abroad would greatly benefit my academic advancement bla bla boring” and “Vancouver: The L Word was shot there (which means Kate Moennig touched Vancouver soil!) and Tegan Quin lives there – by the way, they also have this great university I’d like to spend a semester at!”. I haven’t gotten past those extremes yet. Since our department has this amazing invention called the Writing Center, I thought I’d stop by there to get some feedback on my letter and my resume. If only these people would actually show up to their official office hours postet on their official website hosted by the official American Studies department of the official Faculty of Language and Literature Studies of the totally official University of official Munich, I would have one less problem now. Since nobody was there, I wrote an email to make an appointment for this week, which has not been replied to and also I got mixed up with the times so they might actually ask me to come at a time that I actually can’t really make but ACTUALLY I asked for this time, but – I probably won’t be able to make it. You still with me? The bottom line is, I hope they never answer that email, I hope it went straight into the spam folder and will sit and rot there until one day after many years someone will clean out that spam folder and curiously wonder if that pathetic person actually ever made it to Vancouver and survived there for four entire months. If you’re from the Writing Center and reading this (which is highly unlikely): DON’T ANSWER THAT EMAIL! I BEG YOU! I can’t stand when strangers have to make an extra effort for me (such as replying to an email and then having to reschedule because of my temporary mind fog and stupidity), and even less do I want to actually deal with a stranger that has had extra effort because of me. And that, people, is another episode in the life of a person with chronic worrying-syndrome and (social) anxiety.

To make matters just a little worse, I started scrolling through my Facebook feed, because I’m pathetic and don’t have anything else to do with my life, and came across the headline: “The Feminist Celebrity of the Year could be a straight, white man for the first time”. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! I need to sleep. Desperately. I’m so done with this world right now, I need to go create my own.

 

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I’m a student. Majoring in thinking too much with a minor in worrying.

The new semester just started and with the first week not even being over yet, I feel like work is piling up way over my head. Not necessarily work that has to be or can be done right at the moment, but deadlines for the future that are mandatory to meet. That’s why they’re called deadlines. Ignore them, you’re dead. Forget them, you’re dead. Cross them, you’re dead. Thinking about them will eventually kill you because your body and mind won’t be able to take the shakiness of the worry any longer. Dead. Literally deadlines.

It seems like I don’t really worry that much about IF I can meet the deadline. Because life still poses enough quirks for me to wish to pursue it, I will move heaven and hell to make a deadline. What I worry about is HOW I will meet the deadline. First of all in terms of the quality of the product I am supposed to deliver. If you know anything about me, you will know that I can be a notorious perfectionist. Which can make life really really difficult. Also, I consider my writing a piece of myself, it’s a visible product of my brain, which is basically my most treasured possession. It’s a product of my thoughts, my opinions, my experiences. So it’s got to be perfect if it is going to represent me in the outside world. This puts a hell of a lot of pressure on me, but on the other hand, I love writing for the very same reason. It’s a form of communication that allows me to think about what I want to say for as long as I need and then conveying this in a manner that will truly and accurately represent my thoughts and opinions and experiences. I hate having to represent myself through oral communication because this usually involves not saying everything I want to say, saying it in a way that can easily be misunderstood, saying things I don’t want to say due to lack of time to think about what I really want to say. It sucks. I wish I could communicate in written form exclusively for the rest of my life. It would sure as hell spare me from some of my social anxiety.

I don’t just worry about the quality of the product I am supposed to deliver, I also worry about the quality of my self during the time of production. This includes physical and mental health. Since I will do pretty much anything to meet a deadline AND deliver a perfect-to-my-standards-because-that’s-basically-all-that-really-matters-but-sadly-sometimes-my-standards-are-based-on-the-standards-of-the-person-implemeting-the-deadline-but-then-amplified-by-like-a-million-product, I worry that in the course of all that, I myself will go to hell (not literally though). My body will be put through sitting at a desk or in a super uncomfortable wooden contraption made with the intention of people spending hours on it in a lecture hall, me not having enough time to think about nutritious healthy food to cook and me worrying about shit all night (or staying up all night writing stream-of-consciousness-type blog entries) and not getting enough sleep. And my mind will be going washing-machine-spin-cycle-crazy 24 hours a day about meeting the fucking deadline with a fucking perfect product without going fucking crazy.

I have roughly 15 assignments to fulfill this semester, all with different deadlines, sometimes three with the same deadline, some involving stuffing things into my brain and then spitting them out on paper, others including talking in front of a group of people I don’t know very well and therefore provoking anxiety feelings from the moment I am informed about the deadline to the minute I finally get it over with. Most of these assignments are essays stretching over just a few pages, which should be no big deal, actually, since I love writing, I prefer it over talking or spitting stuff, come to think about it I really shouldn’t be worrying about those at all. I mean, there’s a lot of them, but how hard could it really be?

Maybe I’m actually worried about something completely different and am just projecting that worry onto the looooong list of Essays To Write. I’m applying to our university’s exchange program for a semester abroad in Canada. Which means I have to take the IELTS language test at the end of this month, which I should really be studying for, but a voice in my head is constantly telling me “come on, how hard can in be to write, listen to and speak ENGLISH for crying out loud”. It also means I still have to complete my letter of motivation, stating what exactly I’m planning to do over there and why the hell I’m wanting to do it. And I have to get two letters of recommendation from my professors, which requires once again oral communication skills and of course perfectly engaged and smart behavior in their classes so I get a good recommendation. Talk about pressure. Plus the person in charge of the department for foreign exchange stuff is a, well, um, somewhat difficult person and regarding my first encounter with this man who may lack even more social skills than me, but in a way that makes him arrogant and unfriendly instead of painfully self-conscious, I hope that I never have to interact with him on any level ever again.

And another thing that worries me is my application to a job as an assistant at the women’s equality office. Because it involves trying to sell myself and my qualifications to somebody that I have never met. And I suck at selling stuff. I couldn’t sell a lifeboat to a person drowning in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Also it will in the future involve people. New, strange people. People of authority. Yikes. That’s a sentence right there to scare the crap out of an introverted person with social anxiety, if not admitting them straight into a mental institution.

So why am I doing all of this if it worries and downright freaks me out so much? Good fucking question. I guess one could call it an attempt to live and maybe even succeed in spite of myself.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

Disclaimer: I will not apologize for any typos, incoherent sentence structures, elaborate debaucheries, hyphenated neologisms or occasional swearing. It’s 1:23 a.m. for crying out loud and I’m too tired to proofread anything right now.