I'm almost two weeks in to Remote Year. It has been about one month since I left the States. I've probably slept more in these past three weeks than I have in total over the prior three years. I'm irritated. And of all the things I ask myself -- like "Why are you eating sushi in central Europe?" or "How did this solicitor know I was American a block away?" or "Does sparkling water have the same health benefits of still water?" or "Have my shoes always smelled like this?" -- it is "What have I done?" that comes up most often.
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Lately I've felt like the AOL dial-up sound. Like a skipping disc-man or the moment in 1998 when you accidentally recorded over the best part of a mixed cassette tape. I'm tired. I don't know what I want to listen to for music. I don't know what movie I want to watch. I'm not sure how much money I've cost people who have called my Czech local number, but I'm sorry in advance of your bill. I'm having a hard time explaining and especially writing about how I feel or what's going on in my life or in my brain.
That's all really, really frustrating for me. It's frustrating to watch my younger peers -- female and male -- write seventeen cute articles a week for millennial publications and craft adorable lists and share inside-Praguey jokes on social media. Their selfies are on-point, their sightseeing velocity is breakneck, their laughter is like powdered sugar. The cheese does not yet seem to sit squarely and instantaneously on their thass nor does the beer form a "Is she pregnant?" gut overnight.
And here I am, feeling less substantive than a network sitcom, barely able to talk, hardly able to think straight. I post to social media, I delete it. I write a message on Remote Year's Slack, I regret it. Poor me.
But I don't want to be young again. I don't.
It's not that I'm trying to compete with these kids. I can't write how they write, I can't pretend that life hasn't hilariously broken me since I, too, was a doe-eyed sprite in the golden hour of youth. What upsets me is the disparity between my lack of words and accessible feelings and their River-Vltava digital deluge of whateveranything. So I started to worry:
Am I taking myself too seriously? Do you think you're Cheryl Strayed writing Dear Sugar, Lily? You're not: just be cool, dammit. Write something. Am I clinically depressed? Why have I eaten McDonald's three times in ten days in a city where there's something delicious on every inch of every block? What is my life's purpose? What the fuck is going on? What am I doing here?
I tried to snap myself out of. I was quiet and worked from home instead of going to K10. I went out to the 80's and 90's night at a downtown clerb. I drank some wine outside and talked to my German and Bahraini peers. I sent thank you notes to practice gratitude. I danced to the new Justin Timberlake song at least three, separate times in my room alone, but ended up thinking a little too seriously that someone may be hacking into the camera on my computer. Of course, this most likely wasn't happening. Even if it was -- I watched Mr. Robot -- I'm not a bad dancer and having been fully clothed, I have to imagine the blackmail potential is low.
So, yeah. All in: things are going amazing, guys. Just bananas bonkers phenomenal.
I'm not alone in feeling lost here in Prague. I guess that is a plus. Some of the more introspective people share in these very specific, sporadic, and quiet moments that communicate little more than an emotional shrug. And that's not to say the active lot of us -- the young ones, or the social ones, or the enthusiastic ones – are not sweet, smart, or without emotional connectedness. They're just different. This diversity in energy and age and agenda is so necessary in group dynamics. I mean, really, thank goodness we're not all like me. How many Willy Wonka candy freaks with the coordination skills of a 92 year-old amputee can one program stand?
Exactly. Just one.
This is a lot to manage in one brain over two weeks.
But here's the thing: I'm happy to be here. I know all these gooey feelings and moments of uncertainty are just me growing. There was an island-sized comfort zone around me at home in Gloucester. Now there's an entire continent of discomfort landlocking me in and feeding me carbohydrates. How can something good not come of this?
(Don't answer that.)
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Prague is beautiful. The buildings are architecturally stunning, intricate, and impeccably maintained. The color schemes and skylines are decadent, if not divine. The cost of living is less than half that of a major city in the US and the food is good. I have perhaps never been to a cleaner city, I have never seen a painter's sky outside of Cape Ann, I have never been to a place so principally welcoming. Until yesterday, I had never been to a Museum of Communism.
There are sweet rain showers in the afternoon. There are fireworks every night. Every. Night. The sun rises at 5am and sets at 9pm and the birds sing non-stop. Everyone in Prague speaks English, which inevitably helps with our group's transition into constant-travel. Most smoke, which does not help the group. The DJ's tastes and baristas playlists are solid.
Warm and soulful like Italy the Czech Republic is not: no one wants to be your best friend or to get in your personal space. People don't smile much, not casually, though there's lots of visible familial affection and classic couple's romance. Above all, Prague feels safe.
So who am I to feel lost in a city like this?
A big fat baby, that's who.
I am surrounded by extraordinary people. Truly. Every small, side conversation, every meal, every coffee shop hug reminds me that I do know why I'm here: to evolve, to build, to learn, to practice empathy, to connect, to reframe love, to dance. I am not here to feel bad for myself, to lament youth's agenda, or to write brilliantly enlightened novellas every day. I am not here to maintain non-stinky shoes (even though it's gross). (I'll deal with it.)
I am also not here to lock myself out of my apartment on week one or to routinely buy/house super disgusting Haribo candy but -- you know -- shit happens.
"Lily... what have you done?"
In one month, 3,900 miles from home, I've remembered to put on deodorant all but one day.
I'm calling that a win.
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I always feel strange writing in the immediate wake of national tragedies like the one unfolding in Orlando. I wrote this in 2011 in the wake of the Japan tsunami, just before I left for Paris with Cait. It's not great, it's super long, and there's rather eerie references to the AOL dial-up sound and The Rumpus's Dear Sugar. But the message is pertinent today yet. What are we doing to each other, America? More love. More, more love.