Yesterday evening, I walked back to the University of Aberdeen after a long day of travels with one of my good friends. With a dazed look in her eye, she asked me if I still get that feeling- the feeling that I can’t believe that I am in Scotland.
I didn’t know how to respond. In the moment, I tried to recall a moment where I felt an intense sense of disbelief that I am in Scotland, but I didn’t know if I ever felt it before.
Life has been a little different in Aberdeen, but it feels the same as any living somewhere new. I don’t know all the stores around me and I don’t know many of the people. I don’t know any bus routes within the city. I don’t know how cold it will get and I don’t know how many layers I need to wear.
I responded to my friend’s question with one of those roundabout answers, those non-answer answers that avoids answering the question.
My breakfast crew in Scotland can attest that I like to wonder. Many mornings, I bring up ideas that I have been thinking about. I’ve had ample discussions, recounting my late-night musings about how I could personally minimize my carbon footprint, my possible future aspirations after graduation, and my deep thoughts about food’s influence in building community. My breakfast crew can attest that I will say everything that comes to my mind. They can also attest that I can sustain an hour-long conversation about types of cheese and jam.
But, they don’t know that at the end of my breakfast conversations, I file away all of my unanswered questions. I compartmentalize and re-focus on today’s tasks. Maybe, my questions would get answered later that evening or a next breakfast conversation when I decide to re-open those cans of worms.
I could think about things all day. In fact, I spent many of my elementary school recesses pondering on the wet wooden bench near the playground. I would blankly stare at the loud kids running down the steep slides and trying to stay uncaught by the recess teachers. Once I sat on my bench, my mind easily wandered from imagining my future career to thinking about the characteristics of the great books I’ve read. Only two things would disrupt my thoughts: the tedious recess bell and the bored kids who would clap in front of my distant eyes, knowing I would blink.
Nowadays, I don’t let myself wander in thought like I used to. I would love to spend hours daydreaming and writing down my thoughts, but I don’t allow let myself think like that often. I am worried that I will get distracted by my discoveries and push away my responsibilities.
I’ve noticed that when I have unanswered questions and I don’t have time to process, I feel uneasy. I can get hyper-focused on finding answers.
Inevitably, in conversations, I have an important reference of a name, article, or popular icon that sits on the tip of my tongue. For me, figuring out the missing information feels compulsorily to move forward. But, when I pause to think, conversations keep going and it is easy to fall behind. I will spend minutes intensely thinking, racking my brain for the missing file. I list every letter in the alphabet until I have some inclination of the phrase. I try to come up with synonyms and other connections to the missing piece of information. Finally, I either figure it out, or I shamefacedly resort to googling phrases to find the missing link.
It is an exhausting process. It is a distracting process. It is a process that makes me worried about letting my mind wander too much with existential questions.
I realize that am almost halfway across the world in Aberdeen, Scotland. An eight hour time difference from Seattle, an eight hour time difference from home.
Still, it seems like only a number to me. I have not conceptualized the space, the distance between Scotland and home. I try not to think too deeply about it because I know I might get lost for a bit, trapped in that momentary limbo of processing where I am in life.
I reserve time to think on my walks. I try to go on a walk almost every day. My walks are when I collect myself, process my feelings, and start to break down my assumptions. I often get lost in thought and sometimes I drown in a heavy daze of ideas. When I get to an intersection, I re-focus on my surroundings and realize the distance I’ve covered, the distance that wasn’t part of my conscious.
Every now and then, I get so distracted and I slowly begin to realize that I am a little too lost, and I need to pay more attention. I look up for landmarks and around for signs to find my way back on the path. I always get back on the path. With every step, my shoes from home embrace the Aberdeen ground, and I keep walking.