By Ju Laclau Massaglia
I have never felt like this before. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath. Deep inside my stomach something was happening. It felt like an electric current that made me want to jump out of my chair and start running around. I expected it to last for only a moment, but as seconds passed, I realised this energy was still there, accumulating in my gut.
I could not stand up right then and there. I was in the middle of a class. I was not sure whether the feeling would escalate into an unbearable anxiety that would get me to bang my legs up and down in my seat. It could also just dissolve into nothing. Honestly, it could go anywhere from there, but it meant something big was going to happen; that much I knew.
Because my body was forced to stay still, my brain was left to wonder. It ran a deep analysis of every sensation on my skin, in my gut, in my chest. I felt every muscle as it bounced my leg up and down, my finger joints as they articulated their tips against my keyboard and the way my collar felt slightly too tight around my neck.
Parallel to that, my mind was going through every possible reason for the feelings I was having. It may have been even worse than looking it up, because my mind leapt from panic attack to heart attack to imminent death in a matter of seconds. Still, there is no outrunning a tsunami once the water has started to grow against the shore, so I could do nothing but explore the feelings within my body and let them happen as they wished.
There are some moments in life that we can tell will change our life forever. It can be anything: a hello, a goodbye, trying something new or realising something for the very first time. At this exact time, I could tell that something meaningful was going on in the back of my mind. I had been sad, burying myself in work and loneliness for a long time. Anything to escape the fact that I was terrified.
At the same time, I was running away from the reason for my fear. How had the nightmares got so bad that they kept me awake for days at a time? Why was my mind playing such nasty tricks on me at a time like this? Upon arriving on my exchange, I was told by everyone that this was going to be the best time of my life. No other point was going to even remotely come close to the experience of being on exchange. Then why did I feel so broken and empty? Was this the best I could ever feel?
Still, I stuck with it. I stayed on my exchange, went to the events, met the people I was expected to befriend and did everything I was supposed to do. It was immensely draining and painful to have to look like a happy person at the prime of their life when my heart had been recently stomped on and there was nothing anyone could say or do that could make me feel whole again.
The sleepless nights started subsiding and my will to exist near others started becoming once again part of my daily life. Some days were harder than others, but as far as I was told, this is the way it is supposed to be. Things were slowly starting to look up with the beginning of classes and the befriending of some extremely nice people that seemed willing to care about me when others would not.
Then, the phone call that once again sent my heart to hell. Every word that I had been dreading for months was released and thrown in my face. How was I supposed to feel better after that moment? How was I ever going to be a full person when right there and then I felt like the slightest touch could have torn me to pieces?
Still, there was no running from reality. I arrived home, saw my flatmate and curved my lips in the happiest smile I could pull off. Did I want to watch a movie? No, the only thing I wanted was to bury myself in my bed like I had been doing for the past week, but I decided I was not going to let anything turn the best time of my life into hell.
So I watched a movie every single night, I went out, treated myself, studied, worked and did everything that I was supposed to do as the carefree exchange person I was expected to be. With the sunset in front of my window every night and some of the bubbliest people I have ever met around me, it was not difficult to accept that this is who I was supposed to be from then on.
The next few days were a combination of highs and lows that ended up leaving me dizzy from the complex emotions and the heart-breaking realisation that life as I knew it was over. You were out of the deal and I had to come to terms with it. At least I had got some closure. You had made the choice with me. It had not been me who single handedly had decided it.
I was looking at the sunset from up a hill the next time I saw your text. My new friend told me to ignore you, but I could not leave you when you needed help. So, I gave up what was best for me to help you once again. I let you into my life and I realised how much I had missed you, even if it had not even been three full days.
After that, life became a turmoil of feelings again. Over and over, I questioned my choice and wondered if I had been too harsh. You are, after all, going through a lot right now. Maybe I should have been more patient? But I did not have a lot of time to wonder: a few days later, you texted again and again.
I was watching the sunset with friends when I saw your message. It seems to be in the evenings that you realise that I am no longer there next to you. I looked at it and for the first time something happened. I could not put my finger on it, but there was this ongoing sensation deep in my gut. This restlessness that would not leave my body regardless of what I did.
It was insignificant enough to ignore for a few days, but suddenly, it intensified into this electricity that overtook my body in the middle of a class and sent my mind into a wild hunt for answers. Would it have been better if I had just replied to you? Would the restless electricity have stopped burning inside my flesh then?
I had been sitting still trying to do damage control for what I believed to be the beginning of a strong panic attack when it hit me. Why had I assumed this energy was a bad thing? What if this is what freeing myself from you felt like? What if this is all the positive energy that I had not allowed myself to feel because I had been too busy pinning over you?
A smile curved my lips at this realisation. You might be the person I am destined to end up with or we might never speak again. I may end up looking back at my exchange as the best time of my life or I may hate the second I opted to leave my home. But the question is: who cares? None of that is a part of reality. I had been so busy partly living back home and partly in my exchange, partly being yours and partly hating your guts, partly missing everything and partly falling in love with this new city that I had not realised that I have already started growing here.
Plans are coming and going, my classes were a mess and then they got solved, I met the most amazing people and I got bored out of my mind, I danced at the beach and I sang at the top of my lungs. All of that in only two weeks of being here. I do not believe in missing out and I do not believe in regret, and I love this way of living. It is freeing and it lets me grow and change without added pain.
When I realised this, a question popped up in my mind. It felt like all the electricity got released into my bloodstream. As sudden as it had started, it vanished into the biggest smile I had had in a long time. With the feeling still overtaking my whole body, I grabbed a pen and scribbled on the edge of my notebook: “I’m not going to let any opportunities pass anymore. It’s time to take a leap.”