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THE SUMMER THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Sometimes you just have to be brave enough to embrace solitude.

In the summer of 2017, I moved 3,000 miles away from my friends and family and into a world I barely knew. As daunting as it already was, it didn’t help that I had a mild case of FOMO and separation anxiety. Months before my departure to Iceland, I always heard phrases like, “You’re so lucky!” or “I could only dream to do the things you’re doing.” As I am very fortunate to have landed an internship at one of the largest publications in the country and be accepted to a post-graduate program at the University of Iceland, obtaining these opportunities was never a massive struggle for me. It was something that just happened.

Being isolated from the only life I’ve ever known, I was granted with something extremely valuable: time. Many people go through life and are never able to take a break to reflect upon themselves. Months alone gave me just that. Iceland is where I believe true reflection, creativity, and self-improvement thrives; at least from a foreigner’s perspective.

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The atmosphere, the nature, the art scene—everything captured me. I have discovered I don’t get this feeling when I am back home because of the difference of my lifestyle there. At home, I live in a constant routine of choosing fun over personal growth. I go to my retail job, spend more money than I should going to concerts with friends—an experience I seldom enjoy—and if I’m not occupied for even a second, I will message anyone just to fill the time. I never give myself the chance to be alone and discover who I am.

I missed the routine of being with friends and being “productive” in ways that didn’t aid in my growth. Inertia at its best. I’m not saying spending time with best friends is hindering, but it takes up so much energy. This energy is not able to put into reflection on who I am becoming as a young adult. If it wasn’t for my friends, there would be a lot I would have not discovered about myself. However, I have learned that they can only take me halfway to self discovery and the rest is up to me. I’ve learned how to be alone and how to enjoy the best moments of my life with no one to share them with. I can only share my stories, and even then, I could never tell them in a way that replicates how I truly felt, but that’s OK. It’s OK because it’s my experience, and it’s changing me for the better.

Not everyone will have the privilege to move far away and be put into a different world, but at some point in everyone’s life, they will be in a situation where they are completely alone. This is when time is on your side. I believe time and loneliness are linked and in a way, it is a unique gift. Having the time to work on yourself – by yourself – is precious. Whenever I let my heartache get the best of me, I use that energy to focus on how I can better myself. I learned how to be emotionally independent and secure in my relationships. There were countless many moments that I felt alone and didn’t know where I was going, but I kept going. It was a long way to travel for something so uncertain, but I found what I was looking for where I least expected it.

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