BUT FIRST: Let Me Have a Panic Attack

Megan Eiswerth
Major: Graphic Design
Book Arts in Europe, Summer I 2017

Last summer, my boyfriend as well as some of my friends attended the Book Arts in Europe trip. Seeing all the pictures they took and hearing about their experiences captivated me, inspired me, and made me a little bit jealous! Each of them returned to the States bursting with happiness, enlightenment, and rejuvenated creativity. Ever since their return, I couldn’t stop thinking that this trip was something I had to do.

After receiving my parents’ blessing, I applied to the program in January and soon found out I had been accepted. Although I was thrilled, the whole idea of traveling to Europe still felt like a foggy, distant dream. “I’m studying abroad!” I would tell people, “But it’s not until the summer.” … “But it’s still not for several months.” … “But I’m not leaving until May.” I had all the time in the world to prepare, both materially and mentally. Summer felt so far away, and it was easy for me to put these plans on the back burner while I focused vigorously on my schoolwork.

In what felt like mere weeks, spring semester came to a close. It was APRIL. How had April come so fast? I’m really gonna be gone in just thirty days! By this time, all of my friends and family knew of my travel plans. At least once a day, someone would bark at me, “Oh my GOSH! Aren’t you excited for EUROPE!? It’ll be so AMAZING! You’re so LUCKY.”

Yes, I knew how lucky I was. I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime. I knew my wildest journey was waiting for me—an experience I would never forget.

But did my anxious mind allow me to feel the excitement? Of course not. There was way too much to worry about before my departure. I needed to arrange a phone plan, register for health insurance, purchase my flight tickets, register with the STEP program, research my host countries, make sure I had an ample supply of prescription medications, buy power converters, confirm that my credit and debit cards will work, and on top of everything, I had to pack—What shoes should I bring? What will the weather be like? How many bags should I pack? Do Europeans dress differently? Crap, where did I put my passport?

All this plus a million other thoughts raced through my head throughout the following weeks. As someone who feels most comfortable when I’m in control, it was a nightmare to not be 100% prepared yet. Every time someone mentioned my trip, I was struck with complete panic. On several occasions, I questioned whether all this stress would even be worth it. Will I even make enough money this summer taking a month off of work? It will be so difficult being away from my family and friends for so long. What if I get homesick? Maybe I’m making a mistake.

In my moments of doubt, a meek voice from deep within myself would beg Please, please just trust me. This is exactly what is right. This is where I need to be. This is what I need to do. I need to go on this trip. So I took things one day at a time. I made an exhaustive list of everything I needed to get done before May 18th. Each day, I made it my goal to check one thing off my list, and refused to beat myself up if I didn’t meet that goal. Little by little, my anxieties began to wane. But honestly, it wasn’t until my list was completed and my bags were packed that I breathed my true, full sigh of relief. Although I spent a lot of time overthinking everything, my stress is what pushed me to be as prepared as possible. Now, as I sit at the airport in Toronto, it feels so silly that I ever doubted myself, or this trip. My excitement has finally, totally taken over and I can’t go twenty minutes without getting butterflies. Adventure was calling for me and I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to answer that call. Next stop: Florence!

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