This January was the first time I had the chance to spend some time at home – my childhood home, the house that wasn’t finished before I left our native land, the bedroom that I never got to decorate, the trees I never got to see grow… But this is not a sad story, it’s rather a tale of how anxiety happens to even those, who don’t wait for it.
About 17 years ago, my father’s job took my family and I to South Korea. I’d just left puberty behind, had clocked in a few (too many) hours at Shumen‘s distinct language school, made friendships that [are] sure to last a lifetime and managed to smoke my first of cigarettes. “Skipping classes for the local cafe is this student body’s favourite gym activity” – our Principal would often “claim” but nothing stood in the way of is living out our [pre] teenage years.
I’d always dreamt of travelling, of experiencing various cultures, sharing what I knew and learning what I didn’t yet know; I longed to experience something different and I finally had the chance. I said my goodbyes, we packed up our home and made plans to come back every summer. And I did, for awhile.
In the following years “life happened”, or rather my teenage self did. I graduated High School in the midst of typical teenage drama, moved to Spain to study, quickly left that behind for “assumed adventures” in far away lands, became too stubborn to admit my mistakes but somehow managed to get back to my senses and resumed my studies – this time in Austria.
I have always been a happy person, a dreamer, a believer, a positive soul that would choose to rather brush off the negative than get involved in it; I was a talker, someone who’d rather sit you down and address the issue at hand than passively watch from afar. Somehow, that changed over the years and I’d spent too much time searching for that girl – until now. While in Europe, I noticed that every time I travel home I find her again – I feel a little lighter, a little bit more grounded, I’m surrounded by people who want to truly listen, who want ask questions, who – genuinely – strive to go out of their way to spend, as much time as possible with me.
While in Korea I made a few lifetime connections (some still thriving through Social Media), I grew my passion for dance, I explored and fell in love with a culture…but I failed at truly connecting due to my external influences. My honesty and the truths I’d speak were deemed “irrational” and I was constantly “advised” of how “a woman should behave”. There were several attempts to conform me into the “standard role of a woman” and I was never encouraged to be independent. I was quietly suffocating and knew I had to break free. No 19 year old should ever be made to feel that marriage, children and keeping a house are her only option. So, I ran. I ran away from what could’ve broken me and what eventually made me stronger; I ran from the image that was imposed on me and towards the one I believed in – independency, honesty, integrity; an unapologetic way of living that fits just right.
I still encountered a few set backs during my time in Vienna – a few fake friends, some heartaches, forgetting my passions, a degree that I wasn’t too excited to apply to a career and the notion that my pre-university adventures were simply three years wasted. But I also flourished – I made life-long connections, created endless memories and met the love of my life; we got Bentley – an English bulldog, hailing from Hungary, who currently snores next to me to the background of the Toronto skyline. It’s been 7 years since we moved to this city; 7 years in Canada.
Two months back, we finally found our place; 3 weeks ago we went home for the Holidays – the home that always fills up our souls, the place we saw our bond thrive. Today, I finally bid adieu to the anxiety and panic that had settled inside of me for years. Today, I decided that it doesn’t matter how people perceive or want me to be. Today, I woke HER up: the happy person, the dreamer, the believer, the positive soul that WILL choose to rather brush off the negative than get involved in it; the person that will always tell you the truth and still allow you to choose between judging irrationally or appreciating the differences in people. The non-conformer.
“When It’s Dark Inside…” is a series of mini-essays, that at times may be controversial to some, aimed to allow me to speak up on my struggle with Anxiety – a “struggle” that so many [young] people today are forced to live with. Read more in Part Two, here.