I’m slowly fixing myself. A lot of good quality tea has been drunk. I’m having a week as devoid of forward “grad school planning” as I possibly can, trying not to think too hard about it, waiting instead for thoughts & plans to fold themselves in the back of my head. It’s nice not having that stress and pressure – I feel I’m finally back in the room and acting like the person I really am. In the meantime, here’s a thought process I’ve almost folded to completion…
I’m willing to accept that I can’t live the same life in three different cities (Edinburgh, Philadelphia, Basel). Numerous environmental factors conspire against that. If I lead a different lifestyle depending on my location, it implies I end up a slightly different person, too. Different hobbies and activities. Different work. Different daily schedules. Different friendship circles. To adhere socially I must emphasise different character traits. I am neither better nor worse, just different.
Not all changes come from background environmental factors. Random or planned events shape me in new ways, milestones leave their mark. Education, travel, relationships, new jobs, successes and failures. Maybe these events would have unfolded in the same way regardless of location. Yet what happens is we associate events with specific places. Then comes the background fresco of memories, emotions and abstract sensations.
What do I associate with my 3 cities? What type of person did they make me?
The most important event during my time in EDINBURGH was the completion of my undergraduate degree. It wasn’t easy. I had to correct and work around initial issues of complacency to ensure I got the strongest final classification I could. There were Easters spent locked in my flat or alone in the library endlessly redrawing reaction mechanisms until I could move the curly arrows automatically. The hard work paid off: I balanced extracurricular activities with my education and came out satisfied. Edinburgh is a constant, a familiar location in my native country. It remains a stable force: I didn’t know how much I’d grown as a person until I left it. Character traits: hard work, time management, self-motivation.
When I moved to PHILADELPHIA I had complete freedom to restructure my life as I saw fit. No need to continue past activities, no need to move among the same classification of social circle. Philadelphia was all about reinvention, utter self-reliance (it wasn’t like I could just call up my family or friends for advice, we were on completely different timezones) and happiness. Happiness because I created a brilliant new life from scratch, all the input into it was my own. Philadelphia was also the point where I first became convinced beyond a doubt about my career path. I left filled with purpose and clarity of thought. Character traits: openness to opportunity, independence, sociability.
I do not have as much freedom in BASEL – language served its role as a barrier – but I managed to work within limitations and lead a life I’m happy about. Basel however, did not go according to plan. I think overall I mean that in a good way, but for a long time I believed it to be bad. If only because of how it affected me. I take full responsibility for my actions: I made mistakes, a fair portion through complacency on my part (a common weakness of mine). I allocated time wrongly, I allocated effort wrongly, I decided to let slide things I shouldn’t have. Circumstances didn’t help, but circumstances are there to be worked around. Basel turned into a sharp learning curve, I had to confront failure & setbacks and work my way onwards. Nothing – including myself – is beyond repair, thankfully. Character traits: rashness, inner strength, recovery from failure.
So, that leaves the question. With all these associations knotted up with place…with the task of preparing and executing a second attempt at grad school…with money not being too important a factor (for a couple of months) …with three beautiful cities…
…Where do I go next?