In my third entry in two days, I would like to write more about the experience of being here-- what my days feel like, rather than what I do with them. I spend most of every day alone with my thoughts. Lately, I have been battling a series of minor illnesses I can only attribute to combination of new strains of diseases and an immune system destroyed by the stress of moving across the ocean. This means that I've spent a little too much time in my room since my sister left. But more importantly, it has given me plenty of time to focus on the project that, I now believe, is the reason I felt so strongly compelled to spend a whole year in a foreign country.

My father told me when I left that I was going to Europe to find myself. I probably nodded and smiled and said something about how it was going to be wonderful. I had no idea what that could mean. I now describe my journey like this: I packed up most of my life in boxes, and signed papers that put its American parts on hold. I got on a plane and arrived in an unfamiliar space with very few familiar things to find that when I subtracted all the familiar, every-day things about my life, I was left with Me.

I have learned a lot about choices and relationships in the past year, and I have grown up more than I probably realize right now. I found, however, during my brief time in Minnesota and at Columbia before I boarded that Air India flight to London, that it was difficult for me to act on the lessons I had learned. I found myself repeating old thoughts and patterns that I thought I had left behind. I'm not sure I can explain this clearly, but, essentially, there seemed to be two (rather outdated) versions of Anne-Marie: Minnesota and Barnard.

Minnesota Anne-Marie tends to behave like she did in high school. She's a little bit too loud, she talks too much, and she's a little bit reckless, knowing, as she does, that she'll leave the state at any moment. She's defensive, having never found a comfortable place to fit, and awkward in the uncomfortable knowledge that she belongs somewhere else.

I tell this story a lot, but it's important. My senior year in high school, I said to someone very cool that I had been told I had an edge and that I should soften that edge if I wanted to get along better. Her response was, "Anne-Marie, don't soften your edge. Find people who like your edge. Go to New York." And I did. And it was good.

Barnard Anne-Marie is more confident. She still talks too much, but her peers are interested in what she has to say more often. She has more to do and a stronger sense of purpose. But she is unsure of herself and constantly looking to the people around her to tell her that she's doing all right, she's on the right path. She is insecure with men and confused about what she wants. She is usually very assertive, but occasionally feels anxious and shy, until she'd rather be passive and let someone else make all the decisions for a while. When Barnard Anne-Marie found her friends, she never wanted to let them go. They helped her feel whole and accepted. They liked her edge.

This summer, I spent some time away from Barnard. I lived there, and I remained in New York, as did a number of my closest friends. However, my internship took me away from the familiar neighborhood of Morningside Heights and deeper into a city I now feel I can call my home. I'm not sure I'm comfortable calling myself a New Yorker, but I definitely live in New York, now. Everywhere else is a trip away, destined to end and eventually lead me back to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron and the Park. I made it a project to be happy on my own, knowing that I was about to spend a year away from the friends who have come to mean the world to me. I learned to listen to myself better. But as soon as Columbia and Barnard students began arriving back at campus, I felt myself slipping into the person I had been before the summer. I like that person--she was pretty great--but as soon as I felt those familiar feelings, I felt that I had taken a step backward. I didn't want to look for approval in the places I had become accustomed to looking. I wanted to stop questioning myself and feel that confidence I had felt walking home from 22nd and 5th. It was time to break those habits for good.

As soon as I began to explore Edinburgh on foot, I knew I needed this distance in order to break the habits I had formed during my first two years at Barnard. I never wanted to spend time away from the friends who have such faith in me, but I am beginning to have that faith in myself now that I can't depend on them every day.

And so I spend time alone with my thoughts, writing in my journal and walking the streets of this new university and city. I'm getting used to the cobblestones, and I'm still convinced that the cold wind and changeable skies are necessary to maintain the city's incredible atmosphere. I find that because I don't care what anyone here thinks of me, this sense of being a temporary citizen gives me exactly the freedom I was looking for. No one knows me, and suddenly I feel no pressure to be the English major, actor or writer that I was in New York or Minnesota. I am trying to do things because I want to do them. I go to class because I would like to speak French when I visit Paris next spring. I read my books because I chose courses with fascinating reading. I write because I feel great when I'm writing. It doesn't matter if I'm an artist or a scholar, because there's no one here to keep track of anything I do. Somehow, I feel that my responsibility here is to myself, rather than my resume or reputation.

Today I finished the first draft of a new play. I worked on this play off and on all summer, but didn't really get anywhere until I moved to Scotland. Somehow, I needed to trick myself into opening up by putting distance between me and the places that recall all my old habits. I hope to get to know myself better, until I have a sense of who I am that the haunted spaces of my past cannot displace. The ghosts, friendly and otherwise, that occupy these familiar places have held too much power over how I see myself. I hope to greet them after my time abroad with a newfound confidence in who I am now, in who I have become.


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