If I had to sum up today in a nutshell, I’d probably use those three words. I could be more specific, sure, but at its core, today was about self-care, and those words have a lot to do with it, especially that last one: reorient.
But let’s back up a little, shall we? If you’ve been following my blog, you already know I spent last weekend tackling the massive metropolis that is London, arriving back in Dublin at 1am on Sunday night (Monday morning?) with just enough time to shower and sleep before starting in on another crazy week of classes.
I think it’s fair to say I was exhausted. Physically and mentally. But for some reason, even as the week wore on, I couldn’t shake it. It didn’t matter how much sleep I got, I still spent my days in a foggy haze. It was frustrating, and I couldn’t pinpoint the cause. It wasn’t about sleep, I knew that. Could it be leftover physical exhaustion from my weekend away? Was my semester catching up to me? Did I need to eat more iron-rich foods? Was it the stress of schoolwork? Personal issues? I really didn’t know. And yesterday, it culminated in me sitting in a funk in my room, too tired to do anything but also too bored and lonely not to do something.
Even volunteering yesterday morning was only able to get me out of my slump for a couple of hours. I was working with Fighting Words again, this time for a program in conjunction with the Little Museum of Dublin to get kids thinking about what the city of Dublin might look like in the future. I got a free tour of the museum and got to help the kiddos come up with all kinds of neat ideas. (We’re talking new species of dinosaurs and Olympic door obstacle courses.)
But a few hours later, there I was, in a funk. Luckily my roommate, Sarah, was around. The rest of our apartment jetted off to other parts of Europe for the weekend. Crazy kids. Sarah was feeling a bit funky as well, so what did we do? We had a movie night. I made myself cake in a mug and we settled in to watch Burlesque together, a quality film that Sarah had never seen before. We also watched Kristen Bell’s sloth video on Ellen, so basically it was a good night.
And then… I slept. And slept and slept and slept. Normally I’m a fairly early riser, my internal clock refusing to allow me to sleep past 9:30am, max. But this was the first time in ages I hadn’t had to wake up to an alarm, and my body took full advantage. It was 11:03am when I finally got up for the day. Usually such a late start would make me feel guilty; the sun was shining and I was wasting my day in bed. But today was different. I finally felt rested. After spending the week running on fumes, I was feeling pretty great.
I made myself a cup of coffee and settled into my comfy purple chair to do some reading. Yeah, I was finally feeling alright, but I didn’t want to risk it. When I’m in a slump, there are a few things I can count on to make me feel at least a slight bit better, and reading is one of them. Especially when I’m reading Jane Austen.
After an hour or so of breakfast and books, Sarah, who had also risen around 11, and I began to get dressed and shower and do all of that typical morning, getting-ready stuff. What for you may ask? Well for art, obviously.
The Royal Hibernian Academy has an art gallery just off of St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, and it’s pretty cool. Our dear Abbie discovered it early in the semester with her art class and kindly shared it with Sarah and I a few weeks later. Abbie, courtesy of her art class, was also the one who let us know they had new exhibition galleries open. So while she’s in Norway visiting a family friend, Sarah and I decided to take a look.
We took the somewhat long way around, moseying down along the Liffey before cutting up toward where we wanted to go. A sudden rainfall and some hail caught up to us along the way — kind of annoying considering the sun had been shining all morning. But oh well. When in Dublin.
We made it safely to the RCA and wandered through the various galleries. They seemed to have a few more rooms open than the last time we were there, and even the rooms we’d seen before had a lot more art to look at. I love their variety in artwork and style; almost every piece is by a different artist, so in one building you can see charcoal drawings, watercolors, sketches, paintings, abstract art, realistic art, sculpture, and more.
It was really nice to just stroll through the museum for a bit, taking everything in. I think it helped reconnect me with the city. I even recognized some of the locations featured in the Irish artwork, which was pretty cool.
As we headed back, Sarah and I took a few back-streets so as to avoid the tourist crowd on Dame and our usual school-route down Francis St. Having to orient myself in the city while walking down unfamiliar roads took me back to my first weeks here. Except it was better now, because I had a sense of where I was. Even if I didn’t know the exact street, I could use distant landmarks and my general sense of direction to guide us back to where we needed to go.
I guess that’s kind of what I mean when I say “reorient.” This week I was buried so deeply in my stress and exhaustion that I had begun to feel out of tune with where I was. I was homesick. To be honest, there’s still a part of me that will be happy to head home in a few weeks. I’m ready. But I also want to make sure I make the most of my last few weeks here. I needed to reorient myself, and that’s what this art gallery visit allowed me to do. It allowed me to take a step back, breathe, and then reconnect with the city and my tiny place in it.
I realize this may not be my most exciting blog post, but I want to make sure I capture a real picture of my study abroad experience. Some of it is new countries and amazing views every weekend. But some of it is also feeling overwhelmed. It’s stressing over homework and missing home. It is a real, tangible, multifaceted experience with highs and lows all of its own.
But I’m down to three weeks left, and I don’t want to spend that time in a funk. So I did what I had to do. I slept, I read, and I reoriented myself.
Basically, I did what I needed to do for me. I think a lot of us forget to do that sometimes, whether we’re studying abroad or not. But it’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to sleep in if you need it. To read a book or do something else that makes you happy. Sometimes you just need to refresh yourself a bit so you can look at everything with a new perspective. I promise you won’t regret it.