In my previous posts, I have tried hard to suggest, but not state outright, my struggles with anxiety and depression. Even in person, I write them off as being shy or awkward, when in reality mental illness informs everything I do, and study abroad is no exception. In fact, it's why I wanted to blog in the first place, to try to illuminate the study abroad experience from a non-typical perspective. But, with anxiety, being totally honest about my experience is, well, scary. However, writers are in the industry of truth, and I believe it is time to tell mine.
At its core, my Social Anxiety Disorder makes it difficult for me to interact with people, specifically people my own age, without an immense amount of fear. I want so desperately to say the right things and make people like me that I end up stumbling over words, saying something weird, or having no idea what to say; many years ago, I found the easiest way to avoid rejection and embarrassment was just to keep my mouth shut. As you can imagine, not talking to people leads to a pretty non-existent social life--enter the depression. Thanks to a combination of medication and an awesome psychologist, I'm not nearly as anxious as I used to be; but still, making friends for me is like climbing Mount Everest--not impossible, but looks improbable, and is going to take a hell of a lot of work.
In deciding to study abroad, my anxiety was my biggest worry. I wanted so badly to believe that being in a new place with new people would somehow make me new, a sudden social butterfly. Speaking realistically though, I knew one semester would hardly be enough to identify a few people I felt comfortable talking to, never mind make an actual friend with whom I could do things. I've gone to the same school for nearly three years and don't have a single friend, so how could these few months really be any different? I justified my choice to leave by saying that if I do end up lonely, well, I'll be lonely in Vienna--and that can't be too bad.
Loneliness abroad is bittersweet; I am free to follow my own path, bound to no one, but who was it that said joy shared is joy multiplied? I wish I could share my joy. Everything I've seen, I've seen alone. I cannot help but wonder if it will always be this way, dreaming of connection and finding only myself, hoping that one day things will change. But I can't think about that, not now. Now, I will focus on the time I have left here, and try to enjoy it to the extent that I can. It's not that I'm not having fun here--I am, for the most part--it's just that experiences are richer when there is someone to share them with. I could go to a different concert every night, but none of them would be as enjoyable as one where I had a person I care about sitting next to me.
But doing things alone must be better than doing nothing at all. Right?
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<p>Kelsie is a junior at Skidmore College, double majoring English and music. Her academic interests include creative nonfiction, piano performance, German language, and feminist theory. When she isn't in class or at the library, Kelsie spends her time playing piano, writing personal essays, knitting, or just curling up with a good book and a few cats. While studying in Vienna, Kelsie hopes to improve her German and piano skills, as well as immerse herself in Viennese culture.</p>