Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Wayfaring Adventurer versus the Melon-sized Butterfly: Contemplating a Year Away

You can find Utica pretty much bang in the middle of New York, almost exactly at the shallowest point of the Mohawk river (or so wikipedia says, at least). The city holds a population of somewhere just over sixty-thousand people, as well as the 1993 Guinness World Record for the largest donut. Seriously. Utica has been mentioned several times in the Simpsons; several films I'd never heard of have been partially shot there. If you try and find if anyone important lives in Utica, a Google search will essentially respond with a ‘not anyone you’d know, silly Brit.’ 

Why the information? Well, because Utica also happens to be the place I’ll be spending my next year as an international student. In just over two days’ time, I’ll be blearily wandering out Newark airport with a bag filled with textbooks and ugly shirts, set to spending a while in the land where colour has one less U in it and where pants are the second thing you pull over your legs each morning.

My year away has, understandably, has been the main conversation I’ve been having of late. 
Are you all ready to go? Pretty much, I think so. 

So you've packed everything yet? No, but the David of tomorrow will be all on top of that job. 

Okay. And how are you feeling actually going away? 
That’s a good question. Say, have you watched that new Breaking Bad episode?

I’ve not figured out to reply to that ‘how are you feeling’ question yet, at least not succinctly. The truth is, when I sit back and think properly about the fact I’m shunting myself several thousand miles to the west, a whole boatload of feelings rear up in my stomach, sail the hydrochloric seas for a while before firing their cannons somewhere into my internal organs.  

There’s excitement, obviously. Taking the initiative of moving to a strange place makes me feel like some sort of wayfaring adventurer, going independent and choosing his own cereal in the morning. Though I’m actually legally becoming a child again by moving to the states, there’s a very real sense that my doing something this dramatic is the big step towards being a fully fledged man. A man who goes into sulks fairly easily and owns several water pistols, but a man regardless.

On top of that, there’s a feeling of potential that comes from the move - that anything-could-happen-ness of flying into a new place with new things. Granted, I’m more one for tea parties than keg parties, but still there’s a new backdrop to poke around in, and not just on a small scale. Utica is situated at the red star, below-

- and its position, I feel, gives an oppurtunity to head to a bunch of places during holidays or if there’s a dip in the workload that would be cost a bundle in flights otherwise. I could go to New York or DC, I can finally visit this Walmart place everyone is apparently so very keen on.

Third, last, there’s the fact I’m a bit scared. Am I allowed to say that? When I told one friend I was feeling the nerves they took my hand, but then when I told another he told me to stop being such a tool and man up. Naturally, I sulked for a bit and shot him with my water pistols. 

There’s quite a lot of fear, actually. What if I struggle with the way things are done? What if the learning jump is too big - or worse, too small, leaving me to play catch up in my final year of my degree? What if people don’t understand my accent? Most struggle in Scotland. It’s all a bit scary. I have to leave my dressing gown behind. I wasn’t lying about that excitement and sense of potential, but I have to recognise I got a lot of it from videogames and they get me to explore by sitting in the same place and wiggling my thumbs. I’m not easy-going, my DVDs are arranged alphabetically and I get close to breaking down if there are toast crumbs in the butter. Throwing myself into the unknown like this is new, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. 

Still, that’s partly why the whole thing will be so good for me. The odds are the opening line of my next blog will be The first thing I did in America was get lost, and getting lost is a learning experience and therefore possibly a good thing. 

So, excitement, potential, nerves; all merging into a melon-sized butterfly that lives in my stomach and flaps about whenever somebody asks me how I’m feeling. At the same time, though, I couldn’t expect myself to be feeling anything else. I’m ready (as I’ll ever be) to get on that plane, and I know full well - if the worst that can happen is I spend a year in a room reading second-rate sci-fi - I’m going to have a good time, evil butterfly and all. Keep the irn-bru chilled, folks: I’m off for an adventure and I’ll see you in a bit. 

Oh, and nobody mess with my DVDs while I’m gone. 

Since my last post I’ve been:
Reading Dickens’ Women by Miriam Margoyles and Sonia Fraser
Reading ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Watching Firefly/Serenity (and wishing it hadn’t taken me this long to get around to it)

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