Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Different Version of Myself Part 2

          A few months ago I wrote a post about my fear of not being able to be the person I want to be- the person I was at EMU (http://julia-exploringtheinfiniteabyss.blogspot.com/2013/08/becoming-different-version-of-myself.html). And in many ways, this fear is a reality… I am not the person I was. I don’t believe people here know the complex person I am, but strangely, I have become comfortable this. People might not know a lot know the real me, but I have become okay with this.
           So you might be wondering, who am I here in Croatia? First, I would say I am quiet…quiet and shy. At EMU, I was so full of confidence and as a Senior in several leadership positions, I would talk to anyone. But it took me three years to obtain that confidence. Here, I am not in any sort of leadership role and I am not top dog. Instead, I am by myself in a place where I do not know what is expected culturally or socially, I don’t speak the central language, and no one knows my background. I find myself intimidated in social situations and thus flee to my room.
           And it is here in my room that I sit now. Because in my room, I feel safe. In my room, I can still be the person I think I am. Here, I spend my days (when not at work or otherwise engaged) studying Croatian, writing and skyping friends and family back home, researching peace initiatives in this country, reading books just for fun, and more. I feel like I am Cinderella from the 1997 Whitney Houston version where Brandy sings about “her own little corner,” the chair in the corner where Cinderella is able to pretend to be whoever she wants. In my room, I am I can be who I want to be. Especially when I write or skype my loved ones back home, I feel like myself. Knowing that there are so many people out there who know the real me, makes me feel okay that people here don't.

          I don't want you to get the impression that I never leave my room or I never talk to people because that is not true either. During my work in the library, I talk with the other volunteers (mostly in English, but sometimes I also practice my Croatian). Like I have mentioned before, I feel comfortable in the library. I have a job to do and I do it well. And I am friends with the people I work with and even joke around with them. On Friday, was the seminary's Christmas party and I became part of the decoration committee and spent the two evenings before (and part of my work time in the library), helping prepare for the event. People commented on my artistic ability, which felt really good. It was really fun helping prepare and feeling a part of things.
          Saturday night, I was invited to help make and eat crepes (referred to as pancakes here). The evening eventually morphed into a small dance party and a movie night. It was really fun, but in this type of situation, I find it the hardest to be myself because people were mostly speaking Croatian. I can understand eating and dancing, but I cannot yet follow conversation. So even though I am so glad I was included and I really did enjoy the night, I could not help but feel left out and not myself. This is no one's fault and is part of living in a foreign country.
          And so I try to have a balance. I try to be social and talk to people and let people get to know me. But I also give myself grace when I fail at being outgoing. It takes a lot of time for me to become comfortable and I have only been here two months. I also allow myself to escape to my room so I can feel free to be myself. I can write and skype back home to be energized to leave my room once more and discover more that Croatia has to offer. I am no longer desperately homesick and I rarely have really bad days. I have become content with where I am at, even if I am not completely satisfied with who I am outside my bedroom door. 

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