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Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve

Berlin Fernsehturm in Black and White. Berlin Mitte

Everything I had the opportunity to do whilst living abroad for a year and didn’t.

Often when I’ve been writing blogs or speaking to people about everything I’ve done over the past year it seems to sound like I’ve developed from an introverted little caterpillar to some kind of social butterfly. And I’m not sure this is really the case. I did change quite a lot the past year and I’ve definitely done things that I otherwise never thought I would have but honestly, I also passed on a lot of opportunities too.

Whether it was travelling, meeting up with certain people, going on nights out, or a whole variety of other things, there were definitely situations where I looked -and felt- like the flake of the group.

Thing is, after a year of being plopped into countries and cities alone to find friends, a job, get through uni, work out a new life routine…etc. It gets pretty draining. I got to the point where I knew that some of the things I was saying yes to were mainly just to please other people, even through they’d fill me with a sense of dread, set my anxiety skyrocketing and generally just waste my time. So, towards the end of my Year Abroad I stopped saying yes to the things I didn’t want to do, I set personal boundaries and worked on not feeling so damn guilty every time I said ‘no’.

Already starting to reflect on my YA I can see a really mixed picture of how it was, I was blessed to have great things happen to me but I can also remember really craving the familiarity of home, and even my own personality at home. I felt -and still feel to some extent- like I could never properly portray my personality, humour or likes and dislikes to others whilst using a foreign language and I often really wish the friends I’ve made abroad could see me in my comfortable environment, with my house, my friends, the bars we always go to, my local gym, my uni, our hang out spots and doing the things my friends and I normally do in our spare time.

I’ve often felt this year that I’m not ‘interesting’ or ‘exciting’ enough for the people around me. I wish that they knew the real me but I’ve just had to work on being okay with being a version of my ‘comfortable’ self.

At the end of a YA everyone seems to want to know about the success, how many people you met from however many different countries, whether you’re now ‘fluent’ -lol spoiler: no.- and how well you did in your placements. But there’s so much more to living abroad than that, and really that consists of huge successes and pretty hefty failures…and everything in between. I want to be proud of everything I didn’t do, and I want others going on a YA to know that learning to say no to some things is an important part of finding the people you want to be around and the things you want to spend your time doing.

So in conclusion, I’m really aware that I missed a lot of opportunities on my YA, but I also know that I really got the most out of every opportunity I did take. If I’d constantly said ‘yes’, I know I’d have been exhausted and a shell of a person by the end of the year! I think it’s really important to not deny all the opportunities that we’ve missed or put them into the box in our brains labelled ‘failures’. Rather, they’re an example of us crafting a lifestyle that works for us individually and brings us most fulfilment.

-Aimée

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