I was talking to a friend and suddenly, I don’t know how we got to the topic, she said she’d rather have had my summer than hers. Fast forward: 45 min later I’m still thinking about that. It kind of hit me, in a way this can still hit me.
You know what I’ve been through this summer. Now, her summer wasn’t fun either. She had to retake five heavy exams, so she basically had one week of holiday before the new academic year started again. That sucks a whole lot.
But swapping with me? I don’t think she knows how hard it was. I mean, of course, it’s something kind of unusual, and I don’t think you can really understand it unless you’ve been through it yourself. It’s a first world problem for sure, but having your big dream being shattered in front of your eyes while standing there powerless affects so much more than many people think.
First of all, I’ve been working an entire year for it. I sometimes locked myself inside, I had a minimum social life, just to make sure I’d get good grades and no retakes so I could go to Russia. There were problems from the very beginning with the exchange program, so we’ve been living an insecure life for a few months. Waiting, waiting and never knowing when we would finally know more.
I had no plans during the summer, because I didn’t know when I could go for visa and when I could leave. I didn’t go on a holiday. She did, during the week holiday she had. But I was at home, three long months I spent at home. Every single day.
During July I worked every weekday. That was sometimes hard, but it was okay, and I still thought that things would turn out fine. But in August, the stream of bad news sucked me in and wouldn’t let me out until the end of that month. I couldn’t do anything. I could barely meet up with anyone, because I tried to save my trip to Russia, there could be something happening every moment, I was mentally stand-by all the time. Sleeping got more difficult. And bad news, one after the other. Never a positive note.
I was powerless. I did what I could, but in the end that was not much. When you have to rely upon other people, you can only try to push them to do it faster. But everything went so slow, so slow… And I did my best, I did my best, I tried so hard, but it was in vain. I had no control.
During September, everyone seemed to be busy. Busy going on holidays, busy retaking exams. Trying to meet up with someone was hard, and I didn’t know what to talk about anymore. I could only think about Russia, about what I still had to do, about what went wrong. It controlled my mind, and I felt so bad about it that I wasn’t so keen on talking to people anymore. I could only give them bad news, and I couldn’t take hearing too much happy news from their side. Of course I was happy for everyone having a good time, but I couldn’t handle it too often.
It affected way more, it wasn’t just a lonely, frustrating summer. I was genuinely scared of staying in Belgium. I knew I would be left behind while everyone would be abroad having a good time. Staying here meant staying in these old patterns, staying in this old shit. The old shit I wanted to get away from so desperately. It got so bad that I couldn’t look in the mirror without thinking about how ugly I was. I was convinced that I would be alone forever. That everything could only get worse and worse. That no boy or man would ever get to like me.
I knew that this too was an effect of all the bad things happening. I knew that I wouldn’t have stared into the mirror thinking ‘my forehead is so huge!’ if I would have known everything was alright and I could leave in time. It took over my life and sucked out what was still good, it seemed. Try staying positive when you didn’t have any positive news in months. Try staying positive when your big dream gets taken away, piece by piece, with you standing next to it, unable to do anything about it. Try to stay positive when you know that what will come is three months of isolation and loneliness. I was the only one who ended up staying here. Everyone else left, even though I was the first one to point out that something wasn’t right, even though I was the one who immediately jumped on it to fix things. But everyone left. And I didn’t.
As you may remember, it felt like a punishment, in a way. I felt like I must have done something wrong in order to deserve this series of bad luck. Maybe someone was playing a sick joke on me. Maybe someone was testing me, to see how much bad news I could take before snapping. Maybe I deserved this all, but in that case, what did I do wrong?
When we singed the contract for my room in the city of my university, I cried. It made everything definitive. All the effort, all the work, everything I had done in order to save it, it was finally definitely clear that it was all in vain. I’ve wasted a summer, an entire summer for nothing at all.
This sounds very dramatic, but at that point, this was really how it felt. It felt this heavy. Even at this point I get tears in my eyes upon writing this down. It still hurts.
In the end she had one more course she now retakes, and my semester wasn’t as lonely and desperate as I expected, luckily.
But swapping the summer with me, I don’t think she really wants that. I wish this upon no one. The best proof of that is the fact that I’m sitting here trying not to cry. Even after all these months…
Not to say I would have loved her summer, because that one sucked so hard too. And I’m not mad at her for saying this or something. She really doesn’t know the extent of this plan failing. Just to point out that this was and still is something that cuts deep.