Un été à Bruxelles: Adulthood, routines and other overrated things

(I’ve been rubbish at blogging regularly. I’m sorry.)

I leave Europe in 24 days.
I turn 21 in 25 days.

I am so far from being a real, functioning adult. Right now, my Belgian phone is broken and out of minutes. I have 74 cents to my name right now, scattering in my purse. I ruined two of my favorite shirts because the jäger someone spilled on one at a bar bled into my whole load of laundry. My monthly metro pass expired this morning. I ate frites and ketchup for lunch.

And yet, in this point of not-at-all-having-it-together, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while for any extended period of time.

That’s weird.

Things are going to change again. I am going to be yanked back out of the comfortable, manageable routine I’ve found for myself: the €1 morning coffee, the metro commute, the park lunch/naps, the Thursday night bar excursions, the Saturday markets. I’m going to be picked up and plopped right back where I started, stressed and under entirely too much pressure and eating way too much Gumby’s pizza.

There is so much to do when I get back to the States: I need to buy a bed for my new apartment. I need to work and study and read more good books. I need to learn how to let go of lost opportunities. I need to curb my crippling to-go coffee addiction.

I also need to live more. Live deeper. Live outside of my apartment. This week, I went out to a bar with friends — on a Tuesday! It’s not something I would have ever done at home. The voices of “Shouldn’t you be doing something else?” a little too loud in mine and my friends’ ears. But it was hysterical fun. We danced to swing music and the boys all took turns jumping and trying to hit a store sign (until Franky got smart and found a stick to hit it with. Cheating, but satisfying.).

We (being the 16 students on the Brussels program) are collectively terrified of the fact that our time in Brussels is rapidly approaching The End, and we’re desperate to spend time with each other in our city. We want to “live it up,” as they say, before we’re back in the drudgery of the school semester. We’re going to markets on weeknights and raiding tiny local bookstores and drinking lattes from cafes tucked into alleyways.

We are so young, dammit. Young enough to go out and have fun before mortgages and kids and jury duty weight us down. Our responsibilities are just enough to keep us humming without giving us a true excuse from not going out to truly experience the beautiful city we’ve been dropped in for the summer.

I feel so good about it, too. I eat lunch outside every day it’s not raining. I wear skirts on the metro. I practice my French when I can. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I feel like I should be skipping and singing “I’m Walking on Sunshine” because my heart is so content and happy.

This group has become such a family and brought me out of my shell into the sun.

We’re living in the thick of it.
It’s wonderful, but I don’t know how to bring it home.

If there’s anything I learned about myself last year, it’s that I don’t transition well back to school. Last summer, getting into the groove of Alaska life wasn’t hard at all. I took to the dirt and the rain and sleeping outside as if I had been waiting my whole life to be at camp. Coming back into “regular” society — constant social media, business casual, a lack of mountains — was completely jarring. I spent more time trying to figure out how to act than doing to homework I needed to be doing. It was strange and disappointing, my lack of grace, and I didn’t acclimate well at all.

Shannon (one of my dear, sweet, wonderful Brussels roommates and apparent soul twin) and I sat on our deck for an hour Monday night, reveling in the absence of rain for the first time in a week. We discussed our equally traumatizing experiences in News Reporting class, the stigmas behind mental health disorders and how much we didn’t want to go home to the unavoidable stresses of university life. We wanted to stay, exploring Brussels for all its strange, ragtag, beautiful edges and pockets. We wanted to stay and see every inch of the city that has welcomed us in, the city that feels incredibly like home.

We will have to learn, once more, how to live in the thick of it. And whether that’s getting lost in CoMo, spending Saturdays in Adam’s books or driving out past the suburban bubble, I’m down for the adventure.

Lunchtime views @ Parc du Cinquantenaire



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