Image by Ignacio B. Peña
I have now handed in my creative portfolio, which officially marked the end of my first term as a writing postgrad student. Last week became a mental pressure cooker of revising and rewriting and now that I printed, stapled, and handed in two hard copies of my creative portfolio, I felt like wasting a little bit of time; I started going through everything I had written since arriving in Scotland and pasted them all into an empty Word document just to get a sense of how much I’ve written.
The total comes to 46, 397 words.
It’s not an exact science since I’m not obsessed enough to go through every social media post or message in that time, but that breaks down to:
14,542 words of fiction (latest versions on everything)
6,306 words written in response to novels read for my literature class
3,998 words written for my final literature essay
8,005 words written between all my posts for this site (not including this post)
13,546 words written in e-mails to various people I reached out to in my life.
Quite honestly, I think I’m all over the show right now. It’s only that the week has ended that I am finally beginning to feel the effects of the last few weeks. Reading and writing for both my final essay and my portfolio have been a large mix of mental exhaustion and electrifying excitement. Once the weekend neared, it was back to several shifts of waiting tables full of drunk, happy Scots for a catering company (I found a job by the way), and no shift has gone by without it being a few degrees of manic. In between it all there have been a few fleeting moments of genuine elation.
And now I’m here, and I’ve been here before. Most of the people I want to spend my time with here have gone, or are going away. It’s the holidays, and people need to go back to their families, the people they love, their homes and their lives. I’ll be staying in Scotland, in part for financial reasons; I’m afraid any long-distance flights will make it hard for me to stretch my funds to the end of the course. But it’s not the only reason. Now that the term has let up and I have time to look around me again, I’m reminded here and there that I might be on borrowed time in this country. I want to see it when it’s cold, when it’s warm, when I’m surrounded by groups of strangers together on holiday, hand-in-hand as they stroll through the Christmas markets seduced by the old magic of this city.
I never know whenever I set out to write one of these things how much a person reading will connect. I can only write as honestly as I can, and hope that what I mean comes across in the right way. Living as a student in a country that is not your own is as lonely as working in a country that is not your own, which is as lonely as growing up in a country that, at the time, doesn’t feel like your own. I was walking the streets of Edinburgh alone late last night and suddenly felt the absence of everyone in my life. The buildings around me were full of people; at 2am, some of the windows still had lamps on. In others, fairy lights glowed, teasing hints of warmth. I knew that as I walked past them, there were couples, families, and single people sleeping in their beds, waiting for (or dreading) the coming week of Christmas shopping, dinners, reunions… a week full of, hopefully, happy promises. As I walked I was reminded again of just how familiar this feeling was. I get to see it all, albeit a little further away than I’d like.
This isn’t the first set of holidays where I haven’t been in a place I’d call “home” to pass the time, and for a good while I considered that maybe I was somehow running away from Christmas. Now, I realize that’s not entirely the case. A part of me wishes I had somehow been here longer, that my relationships here were grown deeper, that as the holidays approached, I knew, naturally, that I would be going “home” for Christmas. Instead, I’m just going to go for another wander, hop on a train north and see if I could ferry to an island and have a look around. In reality, that’s a really wonderful thing to be able to do, but the unspoken subtext that twists my stomach this time of year is that I’ll be doing it alone, in a time where a large part of me wishes I could just, for once, allow myself to “go home.”
The most exciting thing about finishing term has been the realization that the time I have for the next few weeks is entirely my own. I’m not ruled by a class schedule, or a work schedule. Aside from a few shifts over the next couple of weeks I don’t necessarily have anywhere to be, a reality that is both exhilarating and equally terrifying, for all the aforementioned reasons. Rather than take a break, I finished the term with a growing list of things I need to write. The words won’t stop. It’s only the scenery that will change. And yet…
I’ve been here before.