CONTRADICTING THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON 

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

I’m taking advantage of the calm of boxing day morning (I am writing this on my couch with a cup of coffee, looking over at our Christmas tree. It is 8 AM and I am the only one awake) to finally finish this article about the holiday season.

Here’s a fact about me: I am one of those people who get overly excited about Christmas right after Halloween. I may not be a huge fan of the cold, but I am a huge fan of Christmas. I love the lights, Christmas markets are my heaven, and most importantly I adore going back home to spend this time of year with my family.

Here’s another fact about me: Winter is my least favourite season and the holidays are something that I dread all year round. I struggle a lot with the changing of seasons and this time of year as I have realised, is when my mental health is at its worst, I’ve often relapsed during the months of November and December.

I called this article contradicting thoughts about the holiday season for a reason, when it comes to the month of December, I’m a paradox. The truth is that I am not sure how I feel about the holidays; one one side I love them more than anything, but on the other I hate them more than anything.

The holidays are beautiful and walking around wearing an ugly Christmas jumper is so fun. In Edinburgh the Christmas cheer is already felt all through November and there’s nothing quite like sipping on a hot gin toddy with a good friend at the market. But the end of November and the beginning of December is also a time of constant stress. Between managing my time to write essays, buying Christmas gifts, organising trips, staying active, and trying to stay financially responsible through all of that is extremely stressful (and oh so exhausting). I’m already quite stressed all year round, but man am I stressed during the holidays. Trying to deal with that stress on my own + the depression that comes with the changing of the season often equals to nightmares, a loss of appetite, and pushing my friends away.

Christmas is also about spending time with your family. Which is probably my favourite thing about the holidays: going home. I love coming home and seeing my family again, but going home can be quite nostalgic. Even though this year I’ve actually had the loveliest Christmas in a while it will never be the same as when I was a child. Every year it somehow gets harder. This place is filled with so many memories, both good and bad, and in my opinion one of the most painful things about growing up is when the bad memories start to overpower the good ones of your childhood, which is something that has slowly been happening to me these past few years.

This holiday season has probably been the strangest one yet. I’ve had the worst of times leading up to it but ended up having the best Christmas. I have received the loveliest presents and with the birth of my first nephew three weeks ago (yay! I’m an aunt!) this Christmas has been really refreshing. I am also leaving for Berlin in a couple of days for New Years and I hope my mood will stay up for that trip. 2016 has been rough, but I will do everything I can to finish it well and most importantly to have an amazing start of 2017.

To everyone who also struggles during this time of year, wether it’d be with your mental health or your family; it’s okay, you’re okay. I know this time of year is difficult, but you will make it through.

Much love everyone and take care of yourselves ♥

Marion

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THOUGHTS ON BEING BACK IN MAINE

Heya!

As promised, an article about my thoughts once I got back to Maine (a lot later than expected, it’s been a tough few weeks).

So let me explain my trip; I flew out of Cologne on July 3rd and arrived in Boston at 3:30pm (EST). I then took a bus to join my host family in New Hampshire and reunited with them around 7pm. I hadn’t slept well the night before and for some reason I wasn’t able to watch any movies during my flight, which meant 9 hours of doing absolutely nothing. I slept most of the time, but still, because of this when I finally arrived in NH I was completely out of it. Seeing my family was strange. I had imagined what it would be like to see them again so many times that when I finally did, it did not actually feel that special because it felt like I had last seen them the day before. I was extremely happy and it did feel great to hug them again, but somehow it wasn’t as magical as I had hoped. They are so familiar to me that it just felt normal to be with them again.

At first I did not know how I felt about being back. I thought it’d feel like nothing had changed, but I was wrong. I think that a part of me thought that going back to Maine would feel like going back in time, like last year hadn’t happened, but that’s not how it works, is it? A lot had changed; my siblings had grown (physically and mentally), I was in a completely different place (mentally), and some of the group of friends that I had known had fallen apart. This was quite hard to accept during the first few days, Maine had become my safe place, where my thoughts would wander when I needed some peace, how dare it become anything less than everything I wanted it to be? The house smelled the same but my room felt different; there was new furniture, new boxes, the mirror wasn’t where I had left it, things had been displaced. It felt like walking into a museum: it looked like my room, but it was not mine anymore.

Seeing my friends again felt wonderful. It always surprises me how you only realise how much you’ve missed someone once you see them again. I guess you get so used to living without them that when they reappear you’re suddenly aware of how much of a hole they had left in your life and how much better your life is with them in it. I can not even explain how much I enjoyed singing at the top of my lungs to Camp Rock with Ana on our way to Portland, how nice it felt to bury my face in Timothy’s neck while sipping on my iced coffee, or how lovely it was to lie on my bed again with Anna and talk about everything and anything.

So as difficult as the first few days were, I quickly got comfortable in this life again and loved it even more than the first time around because I knew exactly how lucky I was to have all of this, to have these people in my life, to have a place in this world that feels like home. So of course, leaving it again was painful, but let’s not get into that now.

My biological parents joined me in Maine on the 9th and on the 10th we drove to Montreal (I’m planning on writing an article about my week in Quebec where I will write about what we did and of course, vegan food!! So stay tuned). After our time in Canada we went back to Maine; 4 days in Brunswick, 3 days in York, and last but not least 3 days near Acadia National Park. We flew out of Boston back to Cologne on the 29th.

Even though it was quite tough to leave everything again, I had such a good time. Definitely the best month of 2016 so far! Going back helped me gain some perspective on everything that happened this past year and being able to get a break from it all, in my favourite place with my favourite people, gave me the strength to deal with it.

Here are some photos!!

Marion★

THOUGHTS ON GOING BACK TO MAINE

DISCLAIMER: technically I am posting this on July 11th, which means that I have already been back on the American continent for 8 days. However, I was not able to publish this article before leaving as it never seemed good enough and before I knew it I was already back in Maine with no mention of it on this blog. So I will post this article, which was written on June 29th, today. In a couple of days I will write an article about the thoughts I had when I arrived back in Maine. Stay tuned.

Today is June 29th 2016, which means that exactly one year ago I woke up for the last time in my  bed in Brunswick and said goodbye to the wonderful life I led there. It is strange to think that it was one year ago: on one side it feels like it happened yesterday, on the other it feels like it happened a whole lifetime ago.

Today is June 29th 2016, which means that in exactly 4 days I will board a plane to Boston and get back to my second family. When I bought my tickets a couple of months ago it did not feel real, which is why I never actually mentioned it. I was excited about it but I did not fully realise what it meant yet, but right now the fact that I will be flying back to one of my favourite places on earth in about 96 hours is finally starting to feel real.

I do not even know where to start… I am excited, I am happy, I am scared, I am nostalgic.

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while or who knows me personally is aware of how much I loved my year in Maine: the state itself, my family, my friends, even my high school. It holds such a huge and important place in my heart that I could write an entire book about how much I absolutely loved my AFS experience and it still would not be enough. So the fact that I’m going back should just make me happy, right? Plain and simple. Unfortunately human being are not as simple as that and somehow I am actually more scared than happy.

Yes, I am scared. Why? Because over this past year the more I thought about my exchange year the more I tended to idealise it. When I talk about Maine I only talk about the good things (like when you think back on a relationship after a break-up and only seem to recall how perfect it was). Truth is, my year was not perfect. I kept a journal there and I did write more than once about how I wanted to go home, how I felt  a bit trapped at times, how I missed everything too much. I did enjoy it while it was happening and I was aware of how lucky I was to be there, but it was never actually perfect (and that was okay, nothing ever is). However, one thing that it always was, was dream-like. I talked about this in my REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK? article. My life in Maine felt like a dream because it is something that I experienced on my own, that no one here can relate to. It is strange to think that I will be going back, with my biological parents, to a life that felt like a dream.

So here’s why I am scared: what if going back doesn’t hold up to my expectations? What if I have idealised this place so much in order to hold on to a time in my life where everything felt perfect to get through the fact that this past year has been so far from it? This past year has been extremely difficult, which consequentially made me idealise Maine even more because everything there seemed so simple, I was so far away from everything that I had known and gone through (my struggle with my mental health and all my triggers back at home. As explained in my ED RECOVERY AND VEGANISM article, living in Maine for a year really did help me feel better about myself). So when I imagine myself going back, I imagine myself getting better. But what if it doesn’t work that way this time?

On the other hand: what if it does? What if I get too comfortable in that life again, just to have to leave it after only one month? This is the option that scares me the most. What if I never actually idealised it and my life there was actually as amazing as I make it seem? What if seeing everyone again, just to have to leave them again, will hurt too much? I remember that day last year way too well, I remember the pain. I have so much love for my family and friends there that leaving them felt like the worst thing that I had ever done. I want to see them so badly, but I do not want to have to go through that again.

Okay, that was a lot of “what ifs” and reading back on what I just wrote it all sounds extremely depressing. It is not though, I am just in a really strange place right now. Believe me I am happy. I am so happy to see everyone again, to sleep in my bed again, to hug my siblings, to smell the pine trees, to drink an iced mocha chai at Little Dog, all of it.

The thing is, I am feeling too much; I am both happy and sad, excited and nostalgic. I was feeling the exact same way when I left last year, the three days of travel I went through were filled with so many emotions and it was both beautiful and terrible, and that was exhausting. That is what is happening right now, I know that it is going to be difficult and I know that I will feel too much, and that is kind of scary.

Wish me luck,

Marion★

 

 

 

 

THOUGHTS ON HAVING THREE HOMES

**DISCLAIMER** This is an article about my experiences, thoughts and feelings when it comes to traveling and leaving places behind. It is not an article about what I’ve been doing lately but it’s something I really had to get out. Don’t complain about my honesty. Thank you.

I’m sure you’ve all probably heard someone say that traveling is addictive. Once you start seeing the world you just can’t get enough, there are so many places to see and between work/school/responsabilities so little time. I totally agree with this and definitely struggle with wanderlust on a daily basis. But here’s the thing not many people tell you, it’s not as easy as it seems.

Everybody keeps telling me how lucky I am to be living in Edinburgh after having lived in Maine and Belgium. How lucky I am to be traveling so much and to have the courage to “follow my dreams” (as I’ve been told multiple times). And I am! Oh gosh how lucky I am! I know that, I do. So maybe I don’t have the right to complain about it because right now I have every single thing that I’ve ever wanted. But this is my blog and I do whatever I want, plus, I wouldn’t really categorise this as complaining, it’s more of a pointing out the facts that sometimes things aren’t as easy as they seem to be.

Let me explain, when I left Belgium a year ago to go to Maine it was extremely difficult to leave my family and friends behind, but at least I knew that I was going to come back and that they were all still going to be there. Then I made a home in Maine, to be honest I tried to not get too attached at the beginning but when you live somewhere for 10 months that’s something you just can’t avoid. So I got attached, really badly. Which made the experience so much better. There were even moments where Maine felt like the only life I had ever known, which was extremely strange. But then I had to leave. I had to leave a home again and this time I wasn’t sure when I was going to come back. One thing I was certain of though, is that it would never be the same. The next time I go to Maine will be as a tourist, the house I lived in and the bed I slept in aren’t mine anymore and they never will be. I will never be able to live that life again.

Then I came back to my first home, oh what a joy to get that life back! But life had moved on there, without me in it. Of course my friends and family welcomed me with open arms and had missed me just as much as I had missed them but their lives had gone on, just like mine had. Except mine had gone on somewhere else that in their world didn’t exist. In the two months I had I tried to get back to that life as well as I could, it felt strange and amazing at the same time, I had missed it so much. Unfortunately two months was all I had, because after that I had to leave again.

Leaving Belgium for the second time was even worse than the first time, because at that point I was also leaving Maine. I was leaving two different lives behind to start a third completely new one, in a completely different city. A blank page once more. “how lucky I am” yes, I know a lot of people would give everything they have for the opportunity to start again in a new place. For me though, it all just happened too fast. Life moves too fast.

This isn’t a sad article, I promise, really it’s everything but sad. Believe me I am the happiest I’ve ever been. It was my choice to go to Maine just like it was my choice to come to Edinburgh. Both of these decisions were ones that I had planned and looked forward to from a very young age, but at that time I didn’t know that traveling wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s leaving a life behind, it’s constantly missing people and places, it’s not knowing where you belong anymore because pieces of your heart have been scattered all around the world. It’s beautiful, but it’s tough.

I wouldn’t change it for the world, I don’t regret a single thing, but I do hope that one day I’ll be able to settle down.

BYEEE

Marion★

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