There came a time during this past week when I finally stopped asking myself, “Is this trip really happening?” I think it has all sunk in. The fact that I’m actually going to Washington D.C. and London has finally started to hit me.
I’m due to leave bright and early this coming Saturday, but my packing process has already begun. I get very anxious about not being prepared (truth be told, I get anxious about many silly things – more on that later), so I like to have a lot of time to make and go through lists of things I need. Then I like to have even more time to double-check and cross those things off, preferably multiple times. A few days ago my mom came in my room and asked whether or not I had thought about buying travel-sized toiletries for the trip. I laughed and showed her three perfectly packed makeup bags filled with little shampoos, conditioners, lotions, toothpaste, etc. that I had put together days before. Three steps ahead of you, Mom.
Excitement is officially starting to build. The funny thing is, though – the excitement of going to London hasn’t hit me quite as hard yet. You would think that it would be the other way around, that I would be far more excited to go somewhere I’ve never been than a place I’ve visited before. But I have wanted to go back to Washington, D.C. for so long that knowing I’ll be there in less than a week is so overwhelming. I know I’m going to be that ridiculous person on the flight with tears in her eyes as the plane lands.
I am convinced that there is a difference between excitement and anxiety, and so I’ve made a list of things that I’m anticipating with regards to both:
- seeing the National Mall again. When I left a piece of my heart in D.C. five years ago, I’m pretty sure it was left in that specific area.
- putting my hands on the Washington Monument again
- maybe having time to see the Library of Congress and National Archives again?
- going to another country for the first time in my life
- going through customs (yes, I’m actually excited for this!)
- seeing D.C. from the plane for the first time in five years
- seeing the London skyline from the plane for the first time ever
- hopefully having time to see the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, the Palace of Westminster, and Westminster Abby (but if I could only choose one place to go to, it would probably be Westminster Abby, though the Tower of London is a close second)
- getting to spend time with my classmates and geeking out about sustainability with them
- comparing the concept of sustainability between two different governments and cultures
- talking to government officials (just a heads up: I’ve been told I’m not allowed to blog about anything the officials may say to us since our meetings are strictly off the record)
- soaking in a different culture
- my overly-sensitive stomach and how it will react to excitement, nerves, being busy all the time, a different eating schedule, and the heat
- eating a lot of food that may or may not be good for me (my tummy does NOT like certain food)
- the planes. I’m a lot better than I used to be when it comes to plane rides, but I have an eleven-hour flight ahead of me. Oy.
- getting from the airport to our resident halls
- looking like a stereotypical ignorant American in London
- somehow offending someone that lives in England
- finances and using debit/credit cards abroad
- my safety and the safety of my belongings
So it goes without saying that I have a little anxiety about this trip in addition to blissful excitement. But I’m relieved it’s not any worse. Truth be told, I am really, really proud of myself.
My anxiety used to be absolutely debilitating. It developed in April 2012 as a side effect of a horrific stomach issue that had kept me sick since September 2011. Long after I was physically healthy again, the anxiety stuck with me well into the fall of 2012. I had been sick for so long that I started to fearfully anticipate the nausea I’d been getting regularly for months, particularly when I was in public. I would get so worked up about not wanting to get sick (i.e. throw up) that I would actually, unintentionally just make myself sick. Some days I couldn’t leave my room without having a mental breakdown. The idea of having to be around people was enough to make me curl up into a ball. It was bad.
Then, last December, my dad booked a trip for my siblings, my step-mom, and I to fly to Ohio to visit family. I was forced to get over my anxiety very quickly in order to leave my room and go on the trip. And by having to take my classes in person this past semester (as opposed to online, as I had done during my sickness), I was forced to rejoin the real world again.
Somewhere along the line, I realized just how tired I was of living my life with fear. I pushed myself through panic attacks, through anxiety about sickness and everything else, and through pointless barriers in my head that I had constructed. I pushed myself to do it all without medicine, since my body reacts horribly to just about every kind of medication. It wasn’t easy, and every now and then I still get twinges of nervousness that are so bad they make me want to throw up. Come Saturday, I’ll probably get a little nervous to get thrown into such a radically different schedule than I’m currently used to.
But life is too short to listen to stupid fears. I want to go on this trip far more than I want to stay behind, curled up in my room and miserable. And even if I have to drag myself to the airports, even if I have to live off of peanut butter crackers for two weeks, even if I have to experience these incredible places with knots in my stomach, I am going, dammit. I have waited to be back in D.C. for far too long. And I know every second of my trip is going to be worth it.
It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to be in D.C. on the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday, so I can see the fireworks go off over the National Mall. And while I won’t see the National Mall lit up by fireworks this time around, it will be far more than enough to simply see those indescribably beautiful monuments again. As for London, I have a feeling I will be too overwhelmed byeverything to have any preferences of where we go (though I’m really, really hoping I get to visit Westminster Abby and the Tower of London). I’m ready. I’m ready for whatever is yet to come.
This week, I’m going to finish packing, meet with my bank, copy the important documents I haven’t copied already, and take some deep breaths.
Six more days. Only six more days until I officially embark on this trip of a lifetime.