The (tragic) Beginning

After a long and emotionally draining week, I’ve finally arrived safe and sound in Europe. Local time in beautiful Ramstein, Germany: 7:50 AM. Laurel Ann’s body time, on the other hand, is 1:51 AM, as my watch and computer insist on continually reminding me.* Jet lag has never been a huge issue for me—I’m generally able to adjust within twenty-four hours of landing in a new time zone. This situation, though, might be the one that gets me, as my dad and I still have a five hour drive to Prague left to tackle today.

Why did we fly into Germany instead of the Czech Republic, you may ask? Well, somebody in my house had the brilliant idea that rather than shell out the cash for a commercial flight, it would be fun and economical to take advantage of one of the free Air Force flights available to military personnel, both active and retired, and their dependents. I went along with it, because a free flight always seems like a good idea, and also because the baggage allowances on these planes is practically double that of a commercial airline. Unfortunately, with the Air Force, there are no reservations and no certainty. The plane we were on, which took off at 4 PM yesterday, was meant to fly on Tuesday. Then Wednesday morning. Then Wednesday afternoon. Then Wednesday evening, when we actually went so far as to drive down to the base, bags in hand, only for the call time to be pushed back again to 6:45 the following morning. In an effort to make the most of the situation, the fam squad decided to treat ourselves, and went out for crabs, my all-time favorite meal.

Fast-forward to 11:30 Thursday morning. I climb into the car, amped as hell to finally get out of the USA, and quickly notice that the small carpet bag I’d packed as a carry-on is missing. Assuming that someone simply brought it into the house the night before, I run in to grab it. I begin to grow frantic as I realize that it is not immediately visible, but still I am sure it is in the house somewhere. Mom and Dad join in the search. Panic mounts. House gets torn apart. Still no bag. Cue tears, cue gasping for air, cue waves of nausea. We return to the car and leave without it, coming to the upsetting conclusion that it was snatched out of the mini van during the twenty minutes when I (yes, it's my own damn fault) left it unlocked after getting a jacket while at the middle-of-nowhere restaurant in marshy Smyrna.

What was lost:
Several of my most worn and most beloved articles of clothing
My asthma inhaler
The stupidly expensive power converters I’d bought
My brand new Birkenstocks
My Nikon d3200
The stuffed unicorn that I’ve (slightly embarrassingly) slept with since childhood

As you might imagine, this made for a pretty shitty day. On the flight I kept remembering things that were in that bag. My striped open back shirt! My leather jacket! My alpaca sweater! The hand screen-printed t-shirt a boyfriend gave me! But I have slowly, albeit begrudgingly, accepted that it was just stuff. We all have our health, and I am in the extremely privileged position of going to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

I suppose this was the universe teaching me a little lesson about letting go.

*I tell you this mostly to excuse the incoherence of this post. Also because complaining is one of my favorite activities.

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Before

After expressing their surprise and excitement at my Moving To Prague News, nearly everyone has asked, “Aren’t you nervous though?” And the short answer, the reply I’ve given them is, “No, not really.”

The long answer, though, is that I don’t yet believe in it enough to be nervous. At this point, Prague is still just an abstract, fuzzy entity waiting for me somewhere in the distant future. In fact, I haven’t fully convinced myself that it is actually happening to me; it’s some other girl embarking on this great adventure, someone else whom I will somehow become in the next week. Maybe this will all seem more real once I finally unpack all the boxes from my recent move that are currently strewn across my room (and elsewhere in the house, sorry Mom and Dad!), and collect all necessary items into the three suitcases I am allowed to bring on my flight.* More likely, though, I will simply wake up in Prague one day, and that will be the moment it all sinks in.

The move from State College was more difficult than I’d anticipated. It had been quite a while since I’d felt any real connection to the place, so I was surprised to feel melancholy bubble up inside me as I prepared to leave that bizarre and isolated college town for the last time. It’s amazing to me how we carve out little homes for ourselves even in places we don’t always feel like we belong. It always seemed rather poetic that my home there was named “B4,” since there’s that cockeyed idea that we don’t enter the Real World until after college. While I never wittingly subscribed to that narrative, I must admit that, in spite of myself, I felt the tiniest bit surprised when I woke up the day after commencement feeling no different than the day before. It was like the mild disappointment of a birthday—I wake up on the fourth of January expecting to feel eighteen, to feel twenty-one, to feel happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. But every year, same as the last, I might as well be twelve or seven or sixteen for all the grown-up I feel.

Now, though, I still find myself a slave to the before-and-after line of thinking. I feel in that these last few weeks at home I’ve been subsisting in some sort of liminal space; my old life has ended and my new one is waiting to begin. But this is just as much a part of my life as any other, and deserves to be treated as such! I continually insist on making days of my life into way stations, and in doing so I have wasted so many.

That, I think, is why I felt that I needed to take this adventure. I needed to do something big, to leap feet-first off the trestle and leave behind my comfort zone and nearly everyone I love. I need to leave behind my way stations so that I can understand that my life has truly begun, that it began a long time ago, and that it continues to begin, every damn day.

Or maybe I’m full of bullshit. We’ll see.

*Anyone who knows me will understand how difficult it will be for me to exist for a year+ with such a limited wardrobe. Pray for me.