“Can I have a piece?” the woman behind the counter asked as I took my bubblegum flavored Trident gum out of my bag. I had never been asked this in a coffee shop before, usually people are in their own heads, reading a book, playing on their iPads, or chatting with a friend across their table.
It’s a question that is seemingly harmless, but often gives off the connotation that I simply ran away from it because I disliked what my old life had to offer.
I didn’t run, I moved on.
My Massachusetts paraphernalia is hung on my dull white walls. My Red Sox hat lies on my nightstand beside me. Pictures, t-shirts, group chats. My old city is never far, although sometimes it feels like it is.
I moved after I graduated, something many young twenty somethings do. There’s something about exploring a new area, making your mark on a blank slate. I knew there was something more out there for me, and I knew I couldn’t find that staying in the same place.
There are often times I feel nostalgic for the life that I used to be a part of. Times where I wonder if I made the right choice, if I’ll ever miss it enough to turn around and move back.
I miss you. I miss the irrationally confusing street map, the “pahks,” the aura you give off that makes it feel like home to any stranger. I miss the crushed peanuts underneath my Converse after a night at Fenway, the stickiness of Bud Light on my arm after a night out.
I miss the people, the sense of belonging to something bigger than what you are. I miss the nosebleeds in the Garden, the 90% chance of drunkenly making a new friend at a Bruin’s game.
I miss all of those things.
However, whenever I go back, I’m always reminded of why I left.
It’s not because I dislike you, or that my new life is significantly better than the life that you offered me. It’s because I know the attachment I have to every aspect of you will hurt my chances of ever seeing what else is out there.
I love my new home. I love the architecture, the hole-in-the-wall coffee shops that I stumble upon. My monument runs are tough to beat. Although the sport’s culture isn’t as enjoyable, it’s entertaining to watch people try to make that the case (Go….Redskins?).
Life here is more cut-throat, the people aren’t attached to where they reside. People come in and out, oftentimes not regretting who they step on to get to where they’re going. It has been challenging to adjust to a new life, but it’s the challenge I crave.
It’s the challenge that I new I needed to start my new life post-grad.
When people ask me why I chose DC, I never really know how to answer. I always had an idea in my head that we are “meant” to be in a certain city. That we are meant to find an undeniable attachment to a certain place. Originally, that’s why I picked DC.
I thought I was meant to be here.
I’ve come to find out that we are never really meant to be anywhere.
I’m attached to Boston. I’m attached to Cape Town. I’m attached to DC. And maybe someday I’ll be attached to San Francisco, Chicago, or Portland. I’m not sure. But why should we feel like we have to be tied to one area when the world is at our fingertips?
I don’t think I’m “meant to be” in one place. That’s why I left.
I didn’t want to leave, I had to leave. I had to find out what I was capable of, what my life could turn into without you in it. Many people stay with you forever, and I can’t blame them. Why would you ever want to leave a city that has been designed to make you want to stay?
Nearly 6 months has passed, and I have yet to say thank you.
Thank you for the all of the memories involving cheap beer, the wicked annoying sports arrogance, the faded letters on my keyboard from all the blog posts you gave me to write about.
Thank you for the in-state tuition at an incredible college, the group chat of 10 high school girlfriends that makes me feel close when I’m lonely. I could thank you for everything, and spend all night writing this but I’ll leave you with this:
Thank you for giving me the strength to leave. The strength to try out something new. The strength to dive into something unknown, the strength to leave you behind.
The strength to have the peace of mind that although I will always miss you, I can still thrive without you.
The night of August 22nd, my mom, sister, and I packed my life in a UHaul van. Inside was my bed, new dresser, and endless bags of random sh*t. We were expected to leave at midnight and make it to our destination by 8am the next morning, but we hit the road after dinner instead because naps are for squids.
I gripped the truck with both hands the entire ride (surprisingly, big trucks don’t come with instruction manuals) and I was leaving the city that I had called my home for the past 22 years to start a new life in the nation’s capital.
Did I mention that I am unemployed? Lol.
Boston had my name written all over it. I left job opportunities, friends, family, flings, you name it. Not that I would have been miserable moving to Southie or Somerville, I was just ready to leave that life behind. I didn’t come to DC with a plan, all I knew was that I had a roof over my head and a few month’s rent in my savings account.
Some called me crazy to pack up my life and move away without a job, and others called me brave. Although I appreciated the compliment (or lack thereof), I wouldn’t classify myself as either.
I’m just a girl who wanted to move away…so I did.
So Beth, how’d ya do it?!
STEP 1 OF MOVING AWAY UNEMPLOYED: HAVE ENOUGH MONEY SAVED TO AVOID HOMELESSNESS.
Living at home is always the safest plan financially, and to be quite frank I’m not sure how I’m going to pay my loans on top of my rent and living expenses come December. That being said, I worked my ass off this summer and missed out on a lot fun stuff with friends but I knew I needed to be able to make it down here…at least for a few months. The rest I’ll figure out as I go.
You don’t need to have 10 grand in your savings, you just need enough to give yourself a cushion until your income becomes more steady.
Long story short, I spent $250 to make a video resumé with a complete stranger I found on Craigslist (literally).
I sent a few texts back and forth with this CL videographer dude and he seemed normal and offered an affordable rate so we met up in Boston one day and filmed for 6 hours–again, not kidding. Don’t knock CL until you try it. Statistics show that most aren’t Craigslist killers…I think.
If you were too lazy to click on my video link, I encourage you to scroll up and do so. It got over 200 likes on Facebook…it’s the real deal.
I’m trying to go into the PR field which is what inspired the “life story” theme. The business is all about being able to sell your brand and story so I came up with a creative way of showing that. I ran around Boston and got a lot of rejections and eye rolls…but I also met a lot of amazing people and shot some great footage for pretty goddamn cheap.
The videographer’s name is Ben Zackin who has a video business based out of Vermont. As you can see…he’s kind of awesome. He brought my jumbled thoughts to life and created what turned out be an incredible end product. Check out more of Ben’s stuff here, he’s pretty much the sh*t.
Anyways, back to DC.
STEP 3 OF MOVING AWAY UNEMPLOYED: BE GOOD AT INSTAGRAM…I GUESS?
I started the job hunt grind the day after I got here. I searched on Craigslist under the “food/bev/hosp” section for a waitressing or bartending gig to make quick cash to supplement my income for the time being. I immediately got an email back from a tequila bar downtown…and the same day I was employed.
Day 2 of DC: Employed (technically).
The day I was hired as a waitress I Instagrammed this photo:
I didn’t think much of it. I just wanted the world to know that I wasn’t about to enter into a downward financial spiral and burn up in flames after paying my September rent (just kidding, I just wanted an excuse to Insta).
Well, apparently the owner of the restaurant LOVED the photo and the amount of likes it got–the power of social media, bro. The first time I met him in person he immediately complimented my picture and then asked what my story was.
Well, uh, I moved here from Boston without a job and here I am.He asked what field I was going into and I told him I was applying to jobs in PR. As it turns out, his fiancé is pretty big in PR down here…life, man. He then told me to shoot over my resumé (awesome! connections!!!! networking!!!) and he’d help me out. Before I had even had the chance to, I received this email from him the very next morning:
Not only was he offering to help with my job search…he extended an invite to “chat more” about a full time position within their company. I replied instantly with my resumé and the video I had created with Ben.
The next day I walked into work and started getting compliments on my video and the Instagram picture (perks of being a ~*filter expert*~). He had been sending my video around to the management team and they were loving it.
I refreshed my email after my shift and got offered an official interview for the marketing and events associate position he had mentioned in the email. I couldn’t decide if I was excited or just extremely confused about how quick and easy things had started falling into place.
In less than 2 weeks of being in DC: I applied to a restaurant I found on CL, posted an Instagram picture, sent my resumé to the owner, and now I was getting offered an interview for a really awesome job working with really cool people…with benefits (and free margaritas hopefully?). None of this was planned to happen this way, it just did.
Step 4 of moving away unemployed: if you don’t “know” anyone, make yourself known.
They say life after post-grad is all about “who you know.” You’re expected to network throughout college, build your resumé, and make connections to make the job search easier.
That being said, I’ve known my boss for less than 2 weeks and he has already panned out to be a stronger connection than most people I have come into contact with throughout my job search. My mom “knows” people, my previous bosses “know” people, but I’ve found that it’s way more rewarding making your own connections without anyone else’s help.
OPPORTUNITY IS ALWAYS OUT THERE, YOU JUST HAVE TO FIND IT.
I know what employers look for in a PR candidate, so even if I don’t have all the experience or impressive bullet points on my resumé, there are other avenues to take. For example, social media.
You can classify my Instagram as “basic” but I don’t just take photos for the likes. My Insta feed is an addition to my personal brand and it’s certainly something I include on my resumé (hiding social media pages is so 2011). Social media rules the world, especially in PR and marketing.
STEP 5 OF MOVING AWAY UNEMPLOYED: WORK THE SYSTEM, DON’T LET IT WORK YOU.
What else do I use to enhance this said “personal brand?”
Hi, I’m Beth. I moved here from Boston unemployed because I wanted to take a chance in a new city. There are ways to phrase that and sound like an irresponsible and ignorant millennial. However, there’s also a way to make it sound like you’re a motivated go-getter who has enough confidence to take that chance…and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Like, I have literally been using my unemployment and unsteady income as a marketing technique…funny how that works out, huh?
step 6 of moving away unemployed: throw your excuses out the window.
I’m writing this as a post-grad who is still unemployed, but I wouldn’t have picked up my life if I didn’t think I could make it. The way I see it, sometimes having no plan is actually better than having one. I’ve been able to create my life the way I want it to so far without having to adhere to a 9-5 right away.
Financially, this move has been entirely on my own. My bank account sobbed a little September 1st but the first cut is always the deepest, right?
Mentally, it’s scary as hell moving to a new place where you are basically a nobody. I don’t have a solid group of friends yet and I can count on one hand the amount of people I can call up to go out on a Friday night. It’s weird, but definitely not lonely.
I take comfort in the fact that the best is certainly to come.
The point of this post wasn’t to brag or say it’s easy moving to a new city. I’ve been here for little less than 2 weeks and I already miss my friends and family despite DC being absolutely incredible so far. It’s weird moving here without a solid foundation and no one really to fall back on besides yourself. Not to mention, it’s also definitely a little bit stressful paying rent and other random expenses on your own.
Maybe luck fell on my side these first couple of weeks, but I’d like to give myself a little more credit than that.
I guess I’m writing this to prove that you don’t always have to rely on other people to get where you need to be, it can be done entirely on your own. I could’ve worked the ropes in Boston fairly easily and landed a job out of college if I really wanted to but I knew I didn’t want to stay in Boston.
IT’S NOT HARD TO MAKE IT ONCE YOU GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE, THE HARD PART IS ACTUALLY GETTING THERE.
Maybe it wasn’t the “safest” decision to take a leap of faith into the unknown. However, when you move away, you realize that you need to make it work because you don’t really have any other option but to make it work. You see what I’m sayin’?
Not knowing what my future holds is kind of unsettling at times. However, it’s also kind of awesome. For the first time, I feel like my life is completely in my hands and I can mold it how I see fit. I’ll keep you all updated and I promise I won’t wait 3 weeks this time…
As for the last and final step:
step 7 of moving away unemployeD: don’t be afraid to meet up with guys you met on hinge, happn, bumble, or tinder. *insert smirking emoji here*
I sat on the ferry, looking out to the overcast sky, praying for some sunbeams to peak through the clouds at some point. I kept myself occupied playing with the puppy that conveniently sat next to me while I tried to overcome my anxiety that had unexpectedly hit me by surprise.
I looked out the window one last time, and caught a glimpse of a small lighthouse that sat on the shore. The sky had finally started to clear up as the boat began to dock. I gathered my L.L Bean duffle bag full of outfits I probably wouldn’t wear half of and swung my tote bag over my right shoulder. Taking one last look in the mirror, I wiped the dark makeup that had smudged beneath my eye.
I was about to embark on a Nantucket weekend with a guy I had only been on 2 dates with.
Ok, what if I get sick of him? What if he gets sick of me? Am I supposed to greet him with a hug, kiss, or neither? I can’t hug him, my hands are full. Did I pack enough? Why the fuck did I think bringing muffins was a good idea? It’s fucking weird. I don’t see him. Did he forget? Should I call him? Text him? God, I’m screwed.
The walk down the ramp lasted about 45 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. It was like I was an awkward pre-teen at a middle school dance again, having no idea how interact with the opposite sex.
“Hey! It’s good to see you!” he exclaimed. My overpacked bags made the struggle fairly visible as I approached him with a nervous smile on my face. Play it cool.
“I brought you muffins!” I screeched. Jesus Christ, Beth. Do less.
I stepped into his truck after loading my stuff in the back seat and an iced coffee sat in the cup holder waiting for me. Medium iced with a shot of coconut and skim. He remembered my coffee order…like, this actually happened. Here I was visiting a guy who lived on a gorgeous island year-round and he remembered my freaking coffee order from 2 weeks ago. Was this real life?
…And on that note, the weekend with Nantucket boy began.
We kicked off the weekend with lunch downtown followed by a sunset on Madaket Beach. The sun exploded with colors, fading from oranges to pinks reflecting on the still water in front of it. When I wasn’t trying to capture the perfect Insta pic, I would glance over at him in the driver’s seat and thought to myself so far, so good.
The rest of the weekend consisted of checking out the lighthouses, driving down the narrow roads of the island by the multi-million-dollar homes, and people watching the poster children of Lily Pulitzer. I could go through a laundry list of the things we did, like going to the super nerdy yet awesome Whaling Museum, eating a orgasmic waffle bowls from The Juice Bar, or pretending to scoff at the “unimpressive” yachts on the docks at the boat basin.
But, I won’t.
At the start of the weekend, I found myself looking for reasons not to like this guy. I questioned his motives at points when there was really nothing to question. I wanted to believe that he was just like everyone else, and was basically planning the plot of my next blog post (evil, right?). Girl likes guy. Guy seems to like girl. Guy seems to be too good to be true. Girl questions everything guy does. Guy hurts girl. Girl was right all along. The end.
The “you look great tonight” compliment wasn’t an attempt to get laid, it was just a nice thing to say. The gestures to pay for everything weren’t because he felt like he had to, they were because he wanted to. The “bucket list” he talked about completing wasn’t because he felt like he needed to entertain me at all times, it was because he was excited about me being there.
It was because he enjoyed my company.
Saturday we sat on the beach at Brant Point Light and watched the boats drive by despite the cloudy sky and cool wind. He looked at me as we sat there in silence and said (soberly I must add), “I’m really happy you’re here.” I looked at him and smiled for a brief moment before letting my eyes wander back out to the sea to avoid him seeing my red complexion. “I am too,” I replied. He likes me.
I forced myself to stop questioning and overthinking and started seeing things for what they were. I ditched the all-too-familiar “who can show less interest while still interested” game and started embracing the idea of just enjoying someone’s company. Why is that so hard?
If you’ve read my recent (or not-so recent) blog posts, I complain reflect on my past relationships with various guys and what I learn from them. The ongoing theme is that I basically set my expectations rather high, despite being constantly let down.
I put myself out there, try as hard as I can be to be honest with myself, and slowly start to understand what I look for in a guy, but oftentimes it’s too late. I allow myself to become blind to the disappointments and and red flags because I think that I will miraculously become the girl they’ve always wanted. I tell myself that I’ll be the exception, because I think that I deserve to be the exception. But, don’t we all?
I always hope for the “Good morning” texts that often get replaced with “Are you going out tonight?” texts. I wait for the “Wanna grab a coffee?” questions and then find myself settling for the “Wanna meet up later?” ones instead. I have found myself being OK with being a “sometimes” because isn’t a sometimes almost better than a nothing? Not really.
I don’t know if I’m ready to fall in love or become someone’s “always.” I don’t know what I want, but allowing myself to define my future by my past definitely isn’t on that list. If a guy I’m interested in asks me to visit him in Nantucket for the weekend, of course I’m going to.
I didn’t go Nantucket searching for the love of my life. I didn’t go looking for a boyfriend or a man to fill some empty void. I went because I like to take chances, I like to put myself out there despite the disappointments that I can never seem to escape from. I went because I’m a freaking hopeless romantic. Sue me.
We all have shitty track records with past lovers (ok- most of us do). We all want to feel like we are wanted for the right reasons, when that seems to hardly be the case. Telling yourself that you’re “giving up on men” doesn’t give you the power, it gives it right back to the guy who made you say that in the first place. So, that’s why I choose not to give up.
This guy made my shitty track record feel not so shitty. I have tried to avoid the adjectives “amazing” and “perfect” to describe this weekend because it sounds obnoxious when I say it loud. But, it kind of was. Sorry, not sorry.
As much as we *gag* at fairytale romance, we all secretly sort of want it. The problem often arises when we always expect some sort of resolution to come out of everything; a “happily ever after,” if you will.
We sat on the dock a couple of hours on Monday before I had to board my ferry ride home. My fairytale weekend was quickly coming to and end, despite our attempts to make it last as long as possible. I want to tell you that we had an elaborate conversation about what was next with us, what we “labeled” ourselves as, whether or not we were “exclusive” because I know that’s what you’re expecting. That’s how these stories are supposed to end, right?
Well, simply put my “fairytale ending” consisted of eating muffins on the dock and talking about sailboats. Muffins and sailboats, friends. That was the ending to what was the closest thing to a “fairytale” I had ever been a part of. And to be honest, that was the best ending that I could have asked for.
I was unsure of when I would see him again, but I realized that I didn’t need a resolution or any sort of “ending” to the weekend as I boarded my ferry ride home. I left with the peace of mind that he liked me, and I liked him too. And oddly, that was enough. A label doesn’t always lead to certainty because I’ve found a label is what we seek when we’ve reached a state of uncertainty.
However, uncertainty was the last thing that crossed my mind. I left the island with a clear head despite the unknown label of whatever we were. So, what’s next with this guy? Wouldn’t you like to know, because I don’t really have a clue either…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I don’t want a “happily ever after,” because I’m not even certain of my own “ever after” yet.
I don’t think our story is over yet and I can’t tell you what is going to come next, but I am certainly enjoying writing it so far…literally and figuratively.
I’m currently sitting on the plane about to take off from Cape Town and head home to Boston. My heart is heavy as a type this because I never thought I’d see the day where I actually had to come home. Life has been a dream these past 4 months and it’s one that I never thought I had to wake up from. Reality is starting to set in and I’m not at all sure that I’m ready for it. However, all good things must come to an end so you can appreciate how much they actually mean to you.
Is this a goodbye tribute to Cape Town? I’m not really sure. I’d like to think I will be back some day, and I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen, but if not, I know a piece of my heart will always be a part of this country. The past few days I have been reflecting on my time here and what made it so special. I certainly enjoyed the majestic scenery that I got to see on a daily basis, the $2 tequila shots, and I suppose petting a lion was pretty awesome, but all of that is just the tip of the iceberg. The question that remains is, how exactly do I define my time in Cape Town? I have been struggling to find the answer to that.
Most of us travel to find ourselves. We travel because we crave something new, something exciting, and something that puts our lives into perspective. We travel to make ourselves feel whole. Why stay in one spot when there’s so much more out there to explore? When I left Boston in January, I sat on the plane and thought about what I wanted to get out of this trip. I knew that I would never have the opportunity to do something like this again, so I wanted to make the most out of it. I made a bucket list of things I wanted to see and do, most of which I checked off. But at the end of my list, I wrote, “Become a better version of yourself. “
So, that was my mission. I didn’t want to be glued to my iPhone anymore, I didn’t want to involve myself in drama, and I didn’t want to let people stand in the way of who I wanted to be. I wanted to show the real me. The me that I don’t always get to show at home.
The magic about going abroad is that you can decide to be whoever you want to be. You start with a clean slate. You get to decide how you want people to see you as. People don’t know your past and judge you solely based on the time you spend together. My first week living with my roommates I was certainly nervous. Here I was, a naïve, typical social-media obsessed girl from America surrounded by a people who speak multiple different languages and who seemed much more intellectual than I was. Most of them didn’t care for the latest Kardashian scandal or what the WiFi password was. Rather than debating over what cheap alcohol to get, they debated over complex political ideas. I thought to myself, “Great, these people are going to hate me.”
Initially, I thought that I was going to have to try hard to have these people like me. I felt like I fell into the stereotype of a “typical American” and I tried to hard to escape it. As the weeks passed, I realized that I didn’t really need to try at all. I developed a bond with each of my roommates, without having to change really anything about myself. I wasn’t just a typical American. There are more layers to me than that, and it was a pretty cool thing to be surrounded by people who bring out the deeper side of you. The side that makes you want to put down the iPhone and just enjoy life. The side that makes you realize what truly matters and the side that makes life so much more meaningful. Here I was, living with 8 strangers who I have come to find out know me better than I know myself. They all had such a big part in helping me find out who I wanted to be.
I guess the biggest thing that Cape Town taught me was the importance of living for yourself. I’m only 21, and I am far from having my life all figured out. I often find myself trying to picture where I will be in 5 or 10 years, which I think is pretty normal, but I never really think in the present. So I let myself get lost in other people and try to picture how the present can work into my future. Sometimes this can be OK, but other times it’s important to just live with no expectations, escaping the familiar and immersing yourself into something totally different and unexpected. If you hold on too tightly to something because it’s all you’ve ever known, than you could miss out on things that could impact your life in the most beautiful ways possible.
You know those people that just make you feel good? The people who make you smile even in complete silence? Surround yourself with those people. Surround yourself people that make you happy to be you and appreciate you for who you are. Surround yourself with people that make looking at clouds and walking through gardens seem like the most incredible thing in the world. Surround yourself with people that give the word “love” a real meaning. Surround yourself with people that make you a better version of yourself, and bring out the side of you that often gets hidden by the complexities of life. Like I said, I’ve done some pretty amazing things here in Africa, but I think it’s the simple things that made the trip that it was. I can climb mountains, walk to the grocery store, and go to the beach basically anywhere in the world, but it’s what you make of these simple things that gives it meaning.
As for traveling, do it. Travel while you can. It’s OK to fear the unknown, but it’s only when we explore the unknown where we find the true beauty of life. Travel to find yourself. Home will always be home, but life certainly isn’t meant to be lived in one place. See what else is out there and I can promise you that the world won’t disappoint you. I certainly haven’t been everywhere that I want to go but I have every intention of getting there. I have found that it’s often the unexpected that can give you the greatest pleasure.
So, thank you, Cape Town, for providing me with so many laughs, memories, and people that have truly changed my life forever. Thank you for showing me that life is a precious gift and the importance of exploration and adventure. Thank you for showing me that life isn’t meant to be all planned out at such a young age.
Don’t settle for anything that holds you back from doing what you want to do. Live for yourself. Be selfish. Surround yourself with people who crave the same type of adventure that you do. Explore the world. And, most importantly, always strive to be a better version of yourself.
I’m not quite ready to wake up from this dream yet, but I know it’s time to. I’m not sure what the future holds back in the states, and I’m OK with that. It’s pretty crazy how being away has changed my outlook on the future. I came here so certain of what I wanted for myself, but certain people and certain experiences have totally changed that. The future isn’t set in stone so don’t let yourself think that it is. Whatever is meant to be, will be, and until then, I’m going to try my best to get myself into more crazy adventures and see where life takes me.
To everyone who made this trip what it was: thank you, you’re all incredible people and I will forever hold onto the hope that our paths will cross again some day. I love you endless amounts
I guess I’ll start this blog post out with an apology??? I’ve had tons of people asking me for a blog post from my beloved Cape Town and I keep replying with: “I’m posting one this weekend!!!” And then the weekend comes around, and I start to write one, and I simply cannot find the right words to say. I kid you not, I have over 20 drafts that I can’t seem to finish because they all seem to ramble and make no sense. You’ve won, Cape Town, you’ve left me speechless.
So here is my 20-something attempt at this thing. Who knows if this one will make it out into the public sphere, but we’ll give it a whirl just in case. I’ve been here for over 2 months and it’s flown by but at the same time it feels like I’ve been here for an eternity–see I’m on the 2nd paragraph and I’m already making no sense. But, any-who, I can say with the utmost confidence that I have made the right decision in coming here.
I’m unsure of how to really preface this blog post, usually all of my posts have some type of overarching theme attached to them providing some type of life lesson. But, with this one I’m going to attempt to answer a question that everyone seemed to be asking me prior to my departure-“Why on Earth are you going to Cape Town??”
We have all have things in life that make us feel whole. Things that make us realize that life is so much more than simply waking up every morning, doing the same routine. Life can be monotonous at points, which is why we are always in search of some type of meaning to it all. We don’t want to life to drag us along for the ride, we want the exact opposite actually. We want to be in control life, grabbing it by the neck and seizing every opportunity that will give us some type of satisfaction. Unfortunately, we don’t always do that. If controlling life was so easy, I think we would have it all figured out at this point.
How do you control your life? Well, simply put, you don’t. The better question is, do you want to control every aspect of your life? Life wasn’t meant to be “controlled,” life is meant to challenge you and annoy you and make you feel like you’ve reached your limit. Life is meant to force to you find things that make you overcome your breaking point. That right there is what you have control over. That leads to the question, how the hell do you do that? My answer to that is to find things that make you feel alive. Find things that gives your life more meaning. Find things you can look to to help overcome life’s terrible obstacles. Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” So, live. Don’t just exist.
Cape Town has made me feel like I’m living. I live in a pretty poverty stricken area, the WiFi is pretty shitty at times, and I have to watch my back when I’m walking alone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. All of the the things that are different about Cape Town is what I love about it. Not only is the physical landscape beautiful, but so are the people. I have met the most amazing people since I’ve been here. I’ve have developed relationships with people from all over the world, all coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds, yet I’ve been finding myself totally looking past those differences and focusing on the glue that binds us together-our desire for exploration.
On my third day here, my realtor took myself and few of my roommates on a personal tour of Cape Town. I was still in the “euphoria” stage of a study abroad student-super fascinated by every little thing that surrounds me. He showed us different areas of the city and drove on the cliffs that overlooked the oceans. We got lunch at a local seafood place and sat on this random patch of grass on a cliff next to the water. I had never been in such awe. I thought to myself- “This is my home.” He began to ask us why we chose South Africa to study and I answered the same way that I always have-I wanted to do something different and this is the time to do it. He looked at me and said, “That’s what life is all about. You guys are so young and you have your whole life ahead of you. Do something while you can.”
I find myself always replaying that quote over and over in my head- “Do something while you can.” Too often we let opportunities slip through our fingers because we think we have the rest of our lives to do it. That type of thinking gets you nowhere. Any opportunity that comes your way you have to grab it, because you never know when it’ll come again, or if it will ever come again. What I love best about Cape Town is how it really feels like home now. I wouldn’t say I’m completely assimilated into the culture, for that would take longer than a semester, but the people of this country have made me feel like I belong here. I rarely get treated like an ignorant foreigner- although I have gotten made fun of from time to time for being American (I blame George Bush). People have made me feel like I belong here.
I recently retweeted something from Lululemon that said “Travel does the heart good.” It’s a pretty cliche quote, but I don’t think I understood the value of it until I lived in another country. Not only has my compassion for human life increased, but my whole perspective on life has been broadened. I never realized how little I knew about the world. People here have more to worry about than short-lived iPhone batteries and restaurant food taking too long to come out of the kitchen. People here do what they can to put food on the table, even if it means sitting outside of the grocery store fixing shoes with their bare hands all day. I will say that Cape Town is very westernized in many ways, and when you picture “Africa” the setting of Cape Town is probably not be what comes to mind. It’s a whole different culture, but so is every other country in Africa. Last week I traveled to Tanzania for my semester break, and I can say that it was the first time I really experienced culture shock. Tanzania is a lot less modernized than Cape Town, and we weren’t surrounded by a bunch of abroad kids who are just as ignorant as we were.
We had no plans on this trip-no hostiles booked, no set schedule. We had a vague idea of what parts we wanted to visit in Zanzibar (an island off of Tanzania), but we just kind of went with the flow. We lived on a study abroad student budget, hopping from hostle to hostle, exploring the country. The beaches were beautiful, and the people couldn’t have been more friendly or accommodating if they tried. All in all, it was an amazing trip and traveling throughout this third world country made me realize how good we had it in Cape Town. WiFi was hard to find, credit card machines were scarce, and people’s English was pretty poor. What do you mean??! Not EVERYBODY speaks English?? Internet isn’t readily available in every country????!!? YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT WIFI?! My Common White Girl mind had a rude awakening. It made me realize how good I had it in Cape Town, however, I was happy that I got to see and experience this kind of lifestyle. I probably heard the phrase “Hakuna Matata” over 500 times in the course of 9 days, but when they said it, they really meant it. I had an amazing trip traveling around Tanzania-minus the 85 bug bites on my legs-but by the end, I missed home. And no, not my Boston home, my Cape Town home. That’s the beauty of studying abroad, feeling like you’re at home even when you are thousands of miles away.
What’s been the biggest change in Africa is how laid back everyone is. It has been hard for me to get used to this slow-paced lifestyle, and it drives me crazy at times, but it’s important to not always be on the go. If you’re always rushing, you may miss out on something that could change your life forever. So, take a break sometimes. Stay at a restaurant for more than 45 minutes, take a long walk when you can, and explore what else is out there. There are a thousand things I’d like to do here that I’ve been holding off because I kept telling myself I have months to do everything, but now I’m down to two months and it’s freaking me out. Life really flies by, so when you want to do something, make it happen. Don’t sit around and let life pass you by.
I could go on and on about how much I’ve learned since I’ve been here but I think the biggest thing is realizing how powerful exploring the world is. I wouldn’t change my life in Boston for anything, but it’s so small. Look on a map and see what a small part of the world you occupy. I’m quickly approaching my senior year of college, so I’d like to think I’ve learned the ropes by now. If I was asked to give a single piece of college advice to someone it would be to study abroad. There is so much out there to see, and if you hold back from doing things and justify it by saying you have the rest of your life to do it, you’re wrong. Your life is now. Most of you reading this are probably in high school or college, and this is the time in our life we get to be selfish. Take advantage of that and do things that make you feel like you do more than just exist. Get out there and see what the world has to offer. Remember-the only limits on life are ones that you put there yourself. Challenge your limits and you may be surprised how much it can leave a lasting mark on you. Do something that makes you feel alive.
My time here is quickly coming to an end, and although I’m excited to see all of my friends and family back at home, I already know how much I’ll miss this place. Cape Town has shown me how much life has to offer and how important it is to challenge yourself. Life is awesome and life is short, so make your story worth reading. Thank you Cape Town for being the abs0lute shit.
So, why did I choose Cape Town? If you don’t know the answer to that by this point, maybe you should come to Cape Town and see for yourself.
(I hope this post was worth 2.5 months of waiting)