Six weeks in, and I’m doing it.
In the first 4 weeks, I lost almost 6 lbs, and even though that’s not a huge amount, I lost weight every week (even if it was only half a pound) and I hit my lowest weight of the year.
Even though I didn’t make any terrible decisions, I certainly didn’t adhere to my usual schedule of planned meals.
I’m frustrated, but not too bothered by it. Here’s why:
What I’m doing now is easy.
Not easy the way everyone would love weight loss to be easy, mind you.
But easy compared to the hell I’ve been through before.
Before, every hour of every day was an argument with myself – making compromises on what I ate, coaxing myself into going to the gym, commanding myself to be different.
I read other people’s weight loss stories and they would casually talk about how they did one thing for a number of months before adding or switching to something else. That always blew my mind. They talked about months as if it was nothing, meanwhile a week was an eternity for me. A single day felt like a year.
Now I get it.
It’s supposed to be a learning process – and I don’t mean learning how to be a different person. For instance, I have an untamable sweet tooth, I hate planning, and I hate being locked down by schedules and menus. I need to do things my way, and for the first time, I’m doing it my way and still seeing success.
I don’t eat perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t eat these perfect superfood concoctions I prepared days in advance. I’m not there yet. I still eat out of the frozen foods section…a lot. Because that’s what I can handle and what I want to eat. When I’m feeling healthier, I eat healthier.
When I just need some fast food or a doughnut, I eat it.
But I’m smart about it.
I plan it in advance – usually not by a lot, a day or a few hours, or sometimes even sitting in the parking lot before I go in. I decide exactly what I want and how much of it. I assess everything’s point value and whether or not it’s worth it. It’s amazing how unappetizing something will become after you see that one meal can amount to an entire days worth of points.
In a GIF:
2015 has been a wild ride and a half.
I started the year burned-out, cynical, bitter, and generally miserable with life.
I knew I would have to do something drastic in order to change the highway to hell I was on. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before I shut down mentally, emotionally, socially, and in just about every other conceivable way.
So I ditched everything to start living a life I actually wanted to live.
First, I went to Disney World with one of my best friends. It was my first real vacation in as long as I could remember, and it reminded me what it’s like to have fun. I’d completely forgotten.
Then, I moved back home to live with my parents while I saved for graduate school.
It had its ups and downs, sure, but most importantly, it got me to September, when I left the world as I knew it behind to study history in Scotland.
It wasn’t all fun and games. I’d never really traveled – certainly not alone – or understood what I was getting into in graduate school. I was wholly unprepared for the adventure ahead of me.
But none of my fears ever eclipsed my excitement to be outside of the painfully predictable, boring world I’d wrapped myself up in.
And by the end of my first semester, I got the hang of things and emerged virtually unscathed.
I even got to visit two new countries!
All in all, I conclude 2015 happy
And surprised with myself.
I’m tempted to be sad to leave 2015
But I’m too excited to see what happens next.
I’m learning how to be fearless.
I’m learning not to give a shit.
Most importantly, I’m learning to love myself.
So I wish you a very happy New Year from Scotland.
Goodbye to 2015
And a warm hello to 2016.
Iceland was great, but I still wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. All my friends went home for winter break. All my flatmates were away for one reason or another too, and I really didn’t want to wake up Christmas morning in a virtual ghost town.
I wanted to feel active and take advantage of the fact that I could do something nontraditional, but I still wanted to participate in Christmas festivities, so I decided to go to Nuremberg, Germany. It had history, beauty, a small-town feel, and a large Christmas market. It was one of the most Christmasy places I could find.
I left less than a week after returning for Iceland, making me feel like some kind of super jetsetter.
Of course, the only problem with this schedule is that I couldn’t account for the fact that I returned to Scotland with a busted ankle. There was no way I was cancelling and losing all that money, though, so I R.I.C.E.d that bitch like no tomorrow and pumped myself full of as much ibuprofen as I could. By the time I left for Germany, I could walk well enough to get me from point A to point B, and that’s all I needed.
Of course, it would have been helpful to have a good ankle to kick the PDA couples with.
I don’t know what it was, but everywhere I went getting to and from Nuremberg, I encountered couples that were very much attached to each other. Hand-holding, cuddling, and kissing is all fine and dandy, but the couples I’m talking about were doing gross tongue things and nonstop make out sessions.
To make it even more awkward, each of these interactions seemed mostly one-sided. And all of them were within two feet of me – across from me on the subway, in front of me in line, next to me on the train, etc.
What is it about me that makes people so horny? And why doesn’t it work in my favor?
Anyway, the trip itself didn’t get complicated until I arrived in Berlin. To save costs, I decided to take a train from Berlin to Nuremberg, but because of the way those two trips lined up, I had two hours to get from one unfamiliar location to another with a sprained ankle and a terrible sense of direction.
Fortunately, I got where I needed to go
And successfully navigated the intimidating-as-hell Berlin Haubtbahnhof
In order to make my train to Nuremberg
With only one hiccup.
About halfway to Nuremberg, the train stopped and a bunch of people got off. This happened at every other stop, so I didn’t think anything of it until the woman who had been sitting in front of me asked, “Aren’t you getting off too?” (in German, of course). She seemed very concerned when I shook my head, and then she proceeded to explain something to me in rapid German that I didn’t understand but got the message: the train was no longer going to Nuremberg. I looked around and saw that all other passengers were gone and the train number on the screen had changed.
I panicked. I was sure that I hadn’t missed my stop, but I was also sure that I didn’t have a connection. My train was direct, so what was I missing?
I decided to shadow the woman who had warned me. She walked over to another platform that had a sign for a train to Nuremberg. I figured I would stow away if I had to.
It wasn’t necessary, as it turned out, because the new train arrived and had the same number as the one I’d just gotten off of. Sure enough, it took me to Nuremberg and I was home free.
I still don’t know what happened with the first train. I couldn’t understand anything the voice over the intercom said (in German or English), and my return trip took me directly from Nuremberg to Berlin without issue.
The next day, I took on the crowds of the Christmas market
And the language.
I’m terrible with languages.
I don’t have an excuse. I took three years of French and four years of German. I learned a tiny amount of Russian and Japanese as a kid, and I can’t really carry on a conversation in any of those languages. And that’s not acceptable to me. I hate it. Especially considering how many years I’ve worked with international tourists.
But I tried anyway. I was determined to speak as little English as possible…except that the people I encountered weren’t as encouraging.
They all knew more English than I knew German, so even if I addressed them in German, they responded in English. It was a little humiliating.
I don’t even know why I put so much effort into words in the first place. I got through so many years in tourism because neither the customer nor I focused much on the languages we spoke. We used gestures and numbers, and it was easy.
Oh well. Next time I’ll be ready.
I also won’t go during Christmas. Not only was everything closed, but I was slightly unprepared for the emotional hit of spending Christmas alone.
I didn’t want to go home for Christmas for a lot of reasons. Mostly, I didn’t want to waste any time I could be spending traveling or simply being away from the norm. But, honestly, I also didn’t want the family drama that I just got away from. I wanted one holiday season where I could do what I wanted to do.
And I was 100% okay with this plan until Christmas Eve as I walked around town and saw everyone with their families – no one else wandering around alone – and everyone online posting their “Merry Christmas from our family” pictures. Suddenly, I felt a small stab of…well, homesickness isn’t the right word for it. Being with family is just what you do on Christmas.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have the Christmas spirit. Quite the contrary. Since the beginning of November I’d been singing Christmas songs and even got a little tree for my desk. I was the merriest of all my friends.
But I started getting a little cranky as I walked around alone in a city I knew some of my friends and family back home would love.
I started remembering all the good things about Christmastime at home and all the ideals that Christmas is supposed to live up to. I wanted the Hallmark Channel perfect family holiday.
That is, until my parents called from the big family dinner on Christmas Day, and I remembered why I wanted to spend the holidays alone.
My grandmother fretted over the fact that I was on the phone with them at nearly 1 am my time. My brother was disappointed that he couldn’t ruin Star Wars for me with spoilers since I saw the movie before I left. And my aunt’s father-in-law monopolized the time trying to school me on Nuremberg based on the little time he spent stationed there in the 1950s.
Yeah…you know what? I’m good now. Thanks for curing my moment of sentimentality.
I’ll go back to my time alone.
I’ll see you in a year.
I decided to stay on the eastern side of the Atlantic for winter break. Assuming I may never have the opportunity to travel as freely as I can now, why would I give up even a day of it? It’s only one holiday season. I’ll see plenty of my family in the Christmases to come, and truth be told, I’m still full up on my heavy dose of family over the summer.
Despite all my parents’ insistence and then demanding that I return to the States for winter break, they were completely supportive of me when I reiterated my decision to stay on this side of the pond after arriving in the UK. In fact, they were offended that I thought they would be unsupportive of my decision.
Then all I had to do was decide where to go.
I mentioned my conundrum to one of my friends, and she mentioned that she and a bunch of our mutual friends were going to Iceland for a few days on their way home for the holidays.
Iceland was already among my top choices, so I joined their party and to Iceland we went!
Not that we saw anything for the first 20 hours.
See, since Iceland is so far north, in the winter, they only get about 4 hours of sunlight, and we arrived just as the sun set, so we didn’t see much of anything until roughly 11 am the next day.
So when I returned to Scotland several days later to a rare sunny day, the light was like a kiss from heaven.
But why couldn’t we see ANYTHING in Iceland? Weren’t there lights? Well, yes, of course. But Iceland doesn’t have a big enough population for those lights to make much of a difference against the pitch blackness.
None of us were prepared for how desolate Iceland is. I, for one, expected it to be like the highlands of Scotland where the population is small but still enough that the towns and villages are of good size and you still feel like you’re apart of some sort of civilization. Not Iceland. We went around the Golden Circle, and in between each site there was absolutely nothing. We saw one small village. The rest was flat, occasionally rocky, frozen nothing as far as the eye could see.
It was the first time I’ve ever been afraid of a vehicle breaking down. I’ve driven through some rural, dangerous areas, and I’ve never been afraid of my car breaking down. In freezing temperatures, miles from anywhere, and with so little sunlight, we would have been sitting ducks.
Yup. Just like Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.
It was so alien and unlike I (or any of us) had ever seen that we frequently looked at each other, bewildered, asking, “Where ARE we?”
It extended to the food as well. Icelandic cuisine wasn’t exactly what we had on our taste buds – whale, puffin, shark, etc. – so we had a lot of lamb.
Of course, none of the foreignness was bad. We saw some amazing sights. Waterfalls, geysers, and the continental rift.
We went to the Blue Lagoon to take advantage of the fire part of the land of fire and ice.
It was very nice.
We saw northern lights. Sort of. We saw what looked like a weird white cloud. It was a bad night for Aurora, but I was happy to see anything.
And, we saw penises.
Yup. Penises. As soon as we arrived, we looked through maps to plan out what all we wanted to see in Reykjavik, and we found The Icelandic Phallological Museum.
It automatically became our must-see. We looked forward to it all week – singing “deck the halls with lots of balls, pha-la-la-la-logical museum.”
The only problem was that while we were there, a large group of children (like, 5th graders) came in an explored the museum too. It was a tad uncomfortable.
One of the best parts of Iceland, however, was not something that many of my friends appreciated as much as I did. See, I haven’t seen more than a couple of inches of snow at a time in nearly a decade. Since I moved to the coast, it’s been even more scarce. (We got flurries last year and people lost their minds.) My friends live in New England, so they couldn’t care less about the snow. Meanwhile, I squealed constantly over the snow.
But then the snow turned on me.
I’d been so good about walking on the ice. Though I haven’t lived in a cold climate in many years, I grew up in the ice and snow, so I’m well-versed in the penguin walk and all that goodness. But for one second I didn’t look out for the hidden devil: black ice.
I fell flat on my ass.
Apparently it was a spectacular fall (good enough that a couple took photos of me lying on the ground rather than helping me up – shout-out to those bitches!).
It better have been good, too, since I badly sprained my ankle at some point on the way down. I just laid there on the pavement while everyone within a block radius with a soul came up to make sure I was okay (not taking pictures).
That was the evening we went to see the northern lights, though, so I couldn’t stay on the pavement forever.
I managed to hobble to the bus that took us out of the city, and thankfully, a couple of my friends were tired and disinterested in the lights, so they kept me and my swollen ankle company in the back of the bus where we watched the lights through the window and sang Disney songs. We experienced all the important parts of the trip – we were part of their world – just from the comfort and relative warmth of the bus.
Fortunately, that was also our last night in Iceland, so the next morning, I limped my way back to Glasgow, where I collapsed with a million ice packs never to move again.
I spent my first two weeks in Scotland going through the tedious process of registering myself as a student and temporary UK citizen. I did a little traveling, but mostly I waited in lines and stood in crowds of college students.
I packed up my brand new backpack with all my brand new school supplies.
You really would have thought it was my first day of kindergarten, not the beginning of my Master’s program.
I tried really hard to get a grip on myself. I am, after all, a sophisticated, intelligent postgraduate student visiting from another country.
Though I don’t have the best track record of being well-spoken or mature.
All the same, I walked into class.
Only to walk out of the room two hours later needing a pub.
See, my first class isn’t so much a class as much as it is a dissertation-writing guide, so the first day’s class comprised of a long, intimidating-as-hell list of responsibilities and expectations for a perfect dissertation.
Alright. No biggie.
I can handle this.
I didn’t travel 3000 miles to be intimidated by my first class.
I pumped myself up and went to my second class.
The rest of my classes were much better.
They contained fun, friendly professors and 5-12 students all sitting around a table in studies with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
I saw it as my opportunity to strike.
It’s time to work my Amy charm
And meet all sorts of new people!
Unfortunately for me, we all had to introduce ourselves by our research interests and why we chose the University of Glasgow. I’ve had to repeat this for each professor (including guest professors), and every answer I’ve given has been different because I haven’t the foggiest idea.
I have a million interests for dissertation, and I picked Glasgow Uni because it was old, looked cool, was highly ranked, is Scottish, and is a top research institute. Basically, it serves my self-interest and vanity.
My problems with focusing on a topic were quickly eclipsed by a bigger problem as classes settled into a routine. The classes’ format was entirely different than what I was used to (and not for the better).
The method that I am used to and like a lot is lecture style, where a professor teaches us something. I then take the new information, add my own interpretation to it, and run with it. My new classes are “taught” seminar style, and I seriously did not understand what that truly meant. More discussion, sure. But in seminars, professors don’t teach us anything. They sit and listen to what we, the students, teach the class.
Because, yes, the students are now the teachers. Each week, designated students present a topic for discussion to the rest of the class.
There’s a lot of pressure to make a logical, unique point that doesn’t overlap with whatever your co-presenters are talking about and that also provides enough fodder for worthwhile discussion in class.
All while having little to no experience in the topic at hand. I have to formulate an original thought on a set of reading without ever having learned about it in class or knowing what I’m supposed to take away from it. And apparently, I suck at it. Give me a starting point, an idea to work with, and I’m golden. Off and running. But you really want to know what I think about something? I’ve got nothing.
(Probably because no one’s ever asked for my honest opinion before, which I’d never realized before this.)
So I find myself pulling my hair out in trying to figure out what the professors and the class want from me.
I just want to run up to the professor and force them to teach me something. I need to learn concrete information! Teach me what you know!
I’m slowly getting used to it. I’ll either learn valuable lessons on analysis and critical thinking or have a nervous break.
It’s about this point that I’m starting to think I should have quit while I was ahead. But hey, that’s…
So I arrived in Glasgow. The fantasy made real.
Scotland is as beautiful as a fairy tale. It really looks like this.
The sun shines golden, the greens are greener, even the clouds are a beautiful blue gray, and the wildflowers that grow everywhere are the most brilliant purples, pinks, blues, reds, and whites.
Granted, by the time I collected my luggage and found my way to the school shuttle bus, it was too dark for anyone to see the scenery or my spectacular entrance.
I boarded the bus bound for my accommodation.
Where it took me two hours to get my keys and find my flat.
Which happens to have a view of the highlands and the train. The train makes me especially happy because 1) the last two places I’ve lived were next to train tracks and the sound of trains passing in the night has become a sort of lullaby for me, and 2) the train sounds exactly like the one out of Spirited Away.
It makes me want to watch the movie every time the train goes by, which is often.
Anyway, I naturally didn’t have room in my suitcase for bedding, so I spent my first night wearing half the clothes I brought with me to keep warm and using my jacket as a pillow. Lots of fun.
The first order of business in the morning was to get a real bed. I walked three miles along confusing roads in order to find a store that sold bedding. Streets here are not marked half the time, change names a bazillion times, disappear/reappear, and are not even close to following a grid system.
All the same, I found what I needed and everything went well until I was walking back and discovered the shoes I was wearing were not as broken-in as I thought they were. Blisters everywhere. It was bad. For the next week, it felt like I was walking on broken feet. I was still in Scotland, though, so I guess the good balanced out the bad.
There was no way it was going to keep me from exploring my new reality.
Complete with accents!
Surprisingly, I only met a couple people I couldn’t understand.
All in all, I was over the moon.
I wanted to see and do everything, absorb absolutely every molecule of the country.
Even though almost nothing was familiar.
When I got to campus, I expected at least a few of the other international students to feel the same way I did.
Instead, I was thrown among groups of spoiled, ungrateful undergrads here for study abroad. They were either completely oblivious of the fantastic opportunity they had before them or they were more concerned with looking cool.
It was very disappointing.
It also made me feel uncomfortably old.
Especially as I went through orientation things I hadn’t done in five years – paperwork, social activities, tours, etc.
They were minor annoyances in the shadow of the school itself, though. You see, I go to Hogwarts.
No, seriously. Hogwarts.
And since the University of Glasgow accepted me where my top school didn’t, I like to think that I was chosen.
There are even magic staircases.
You’re on the ground level, go inside, go up two flights of stairs, and you’re suddenly outside again on the ground level.
I was a bubble of nerdy energy the first time I rounded the corner and saw the school sitting on that hilltop in all its glory.
Adding the fact that I’d never seen a building of such size or age before, it was beyond comprehension.
It was honestly unbelievable. I sat there staring at the quadrangles for hours, and my eyes still couldn’t adjust to it. Even my eyeballs said, “No way. We got something wrong. Let’s do that again.”
In general, across the city and every second of the day, it’s so hard to believe I’m here. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one morning in the US in my old room in my parents’ house with my old job.
Is all this one magnificent dream?
For however long it lasts, I want to enjoy it. Squeeze every experience I can out of my time here.
The problem with that, however, is that I don’t know how to live.
When I look at Glasgow, determined not to be bored and to push my boundaries, I draw a blank. What do I do? Where do I start? How exactly does one have fun?
Especially when I factor in the fact that I’m alone.
Even after classes start, I’ll have four days a week of open schedule.
That’s an awful lot of time for me to spend alone doing things. Being alone NOT doing things like watching shows on Netflix is my specialty.
Leaving the house is another story.
It’s much easier for me to be the brave one when I’m with other people, so I guess I could always ask someone to go with me to that museum or pub.
But who am I kidding? I’m about as good at talking to strangers as I am at going out by myself.
However, that could work in my benefit. Without people to talk to, I have no one to ask if all that I’m seeing is a dream or not.
So let the dream continue!
I’ll spare you all the gory details of the last few days before I left the country. In short, I didn’t allow myself enough time to mentally prepare myself for my journey – I only had a day and a half to pack – my brother broke his collarbone, and I had three doctor’s appointments the week I left (one of which was on the day I left).
All this basically left me with a few hours to pack as much as I could cram into my allotted luggage allowances.
Even after cutting out all the unnecessaries, I was still seriously pushing the size requirements. I looked ridiculous next to the simple and tidy business travelers.
Anyway, as the hours ticked toward D-Day, I started getting nervous.
I had a one-way ticket in my hand, and I was going somewhere where everything from the people I saw everyday to the groceries I bought was going to be different. I was ripping life as I knew it off like a bandaid.
I was also putting all my hopes and dreams on the line.
But despite the paralyzing fear I experienced, I couldn’t shake the remaining sliver of optimism and excitement.
That’s when a weird, previously unheard from patriotism attacked.
I found t-shirts that I was sorely tempted to buy.
Or better yet, with Scotland’s independence movement:
Fortunately, I was hyperventilating too much to consider it for very long.
Because I was on my way to the airport.
Not that it helped my nerves. I was practically crying on the plane as we waited to take off. My comfort zone was sitting back at home because there wasn’t room for it in my carry-on. I was not ready for this.
It only got worse when combined with normal airplane fears. I’m not actually afraid of flying, but the thought that the plane could crash and burn still lurks in the back of my mind.
So yeah, sitting on the runway, I was losing my ever loving mind.
But that’s a good thing, right? It meant I was doing something completely different to hopefully change the direction of my life.
My fear meant I was doing it right.
So the plane took off.
And I waved goodbye to my home, family, and friends down below.
After that, all was well.
I honestly expected the worst from the other passengers. A Chatty Cathy, a screaming child, someone kicking the back of my seat, etc.
Instead, it was rather peaceful all the way to London Heathrow.
We landed in London early the next morning. It was cloudy and drizzling. Very British. Not at all like the scorching hot, humid, sunny American south.
I appreciated the challenge of navigating the gigantic airport, UK border control, and everything else alone. I hadn’t had new territory to conquer in several years, so it was nice to stretch my legs a bit.
But after I found my way to the right terminal, I realized I was carrying too much stuff to be able to explore, so I picked a spot and sat in it. For eight hours. Suddenly, the ten hour layover that looked so appealing for giving me plenty of time now just looked boring.
Of course, it didn’t help that it was still 3:00 in the morning for me.
Also, as fascinated as I was by London (from the air) and as much as I still want to explore London and all of England, we didn’t “click.” Charleston and I clicked. It was home immediately, but I didn’t get that from England. It was just England.
Like, “This is cool. Can I go to Scotland now?”
It made me feel better about not choosing any of the English schools I got into, but it also worried me. What if I felt the same way about Scotland?
As the plane descended through the clouds over Scotland, though, all my fears were put to rest. It was love at first sight.
It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Granted, after twenty-four hours on the go, hauling a hundred pounds of luggage, and walking up and down a horrible sidewalk trying to find my flat, I didn’t really have a mind to enjoy it all at once. But hey! I arrived!