“If you want to overcome the whole world, overcome yourself.”
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons
It was the third time my mother left me tucked away amongst the sea gnawed rocks and Scottish heather. As I awaited the loneliness to slither down my throat like a sour, medicinal draft, it was perhaps out of force of habit that I fled into the night, away from yet another new roof under which I must carve out my existence, away from yet another person whom I did not wish to see me cry.
Under the dripping light of the Corn Moon I sat, preparing to be my own shoulder to cry on yet again. However, the longer I sat, transfixed by the darkling sea, the emptier my mind became. The only thought my mind could grasp was not really a thought at all, but rather the felling that envelops the spirit as the body is physically embraced. I sat cradled in the arms of Fortune, for all I could say to myself in this moment was, “Gosh, am I lucky.”
Though trivial this may outwardly seem this moment signifies a personal victory. I had rushed out into the night seeking the darkness to hide my tears, lamenting yet again the absence of that world I love so. But the tears never came. I realized as I gazed back at the sleepy St Andrews that my heart had been swelled by all that this place is, that I am capable of making a home here as well. As a person who values a home above all else, I feel this may be the great leap into a more fulfilled life that I needed.
St Andrews has finally become my home too, though it lacks many of the qualities I convinced myself a home must possess. I am three thousand miles away from my family, the building in which I dwell is not a permanent situation, and I am without a Bear. Yet I can stare out at the North Sea and wonder what awaits just beyond the horizon line. I can run through forests I once only read about. I can simply be free. These are the components that truly build a home, for they are foundations that fortify the soul; and for the time being, St Andrews is where my soul belongs.
The mention of freedom brings to mind another though. For the first time in what seems a very long time, I feel free to simply be. The girl who began university nearly three years ago was a slave to organization: she believed life could be compartmentalized into her definitions of what home, success, and happiness entail. Yet she had not lived enough to realize that when you stop attempting to mold something as transmutable as Life into what you think it should be, it begins to take on its own form that is more beautiful and pure than what you could have ever conceived.
Three years ago I had a definite plan for my life, down to its minutiae, to last me until retirement. Now my plan doesn’t extend beyond the day’s tasks. I have no plan for myself beyond the immediate future, for I want everything and nothing for my long term. I want to sit on my couch and think all day, I want to compete in the Mongol Derby, I want to write a novel, I want to rub elbows with my favorite actors at Cannes as I discuss a movie I helped produce, I want to chop lumber for a living: all of these things are too absurd, too unrealistic, and too various for me to hone in on one and hunt it down. Thus I have no obligation to any of them, and that to me, who wasted so many years on planning the unpredictability of youth, is refreshing. I can focus on today, this hour, this one heartbeat: and I am happy.
All of these reflections culminate into a grand conclusion. Yet how can I conclude when I have not even had my first class yet? The conclusion is this: I have overcome myself. Though I pretend I am wiser than my seventeen year old self, I am taking a line from her chapter to begin my penultimate year here at St Andrews, the very line that began this whole journey in the first place. I am overcoming who I thought I was: a person who depended on her home for stability, a person who needed a plan to be satisfied, and a person who only played at strength but never bothered with any heavy lifting. For the first time, I finally feel ready and eager to overcome all of the challenges of university, for I have overcome the narrow definition I reserved for myself.
This semester I am taking classes, such as Literary Theory, which I have no idea what it entails or whether I will be successful at it. I am living with someone who is in many ways my direct opposite. I have and will be gregarious when it comes to meeting new people, whether they are potential academic children (I’ve got one so far!), potential new friends, or that elusive “Person.” I have rediscovered why I came to this university in the first place: to run so far from my comfort zone that I cannot see it from this new horizon.
I have also rediscovered what truly makes me happy in life, and it isn’t the safety of my home nor the comfort of routine. Challenges are what I live for, to test the limit of what my body, mind, and soul can do. So maybe I can overcome the whole world after all.
Originally written 14 September 2014