An Equal and Opposite Reaction

Written by Swati

February 7th, 2023

Suddenly you’re 21, looking out onto a lake, gentle ripples forming along its surface, with your best friend on the phone and you feel it in your heart: you’re making some place home. 

I’d have to say this is the first week I’ve started to fall off the wagon a little bit and onto the very heavily beaten path. As I stared into my phone on a WhatsApp call near midnight and watched my sister celebrate the start to a new year of her life, I felt a pang in my heart when she asked if I could come back now. She had caught a severe cold on the eve of her 6th birthday, a phenomenon that makes Murugappan daughters quite the handful, and I was reminded of all the times I was able to see her with just a moment’s notice. I missed her, of course I did. And I missed my mom more than words could describe. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this experience was groundbreaking in my life and journey to creating myself and I knew I’d have to be dragged out of this country kicking and screaming to leave sooner than my time. After a series of unfortunate events this past weekend I learned to take things at my own pace and really savor each moment, studying abroad is not a race and visiting countries is not a checklist. To all those who can run from train to train to bus to museums to restaurants to attractions to nightlife, I applaud you. But when exhaustion hits and things start to feel like a checklist, they give me less fulfillment, and I’m glad I found that out about myself this past weekend. 

Onto the more recent epic fails, this is the closest to hell week I’ve gotten since I got to GTE (one too many weeks of just turning in a homework assignment here and there got me too comfortable). I had two subpar presentations in my elective courses, came back on Wednesday nights and turned my stovetop too high, burning my dumplings which then set off my fire alarm (an event that I have never experienced before) followed by a physics exam that I was quite ill-prepared for. In the words of Newton himself, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To every misfortune, goodness is at its corner, if only one remembers to look. My partially burnt dumplings turned out crispy for the first time, and now I know to turn down the heat of my stovetop and pass on the splash of water I’ve been adding- they’ve been soggy for so long. And I set off my fire alarm, but in the midst of the chaos my ramen turned out just the way my mom makes it- not too soupy and not overcooked, springy noodles with the perfect amount of bite. While I could’ve studied more for the exam, I was surprised to see familiar concepts and problems similar to old practice tests. And I was surprised at the amount of healing a familiar voice carries when I called my best friend to give her a big catch up of the first full month here. This is not to darken your day with toxic positivity down your throats, but a simple reminder to myself that cloudy days make the sunny ones shine brighter. See: The Scotland Post (aka the trip that changed and set the course of my life.) I needed to know what else was out there in terms of travel and have some not great experiences in order to appreciate the better ones and plan for the future. I needed to learn how to balance travel and schoolwork, which was shown by my first big checkpoint in the semester. And most of all, I needed to hear from the people who cared about me most when I needed them. In the words of one of my very best friends, find one good thing about the day. And watch your perspective change. But if that doesn’t work, I mean there’s always RyanAir (not sponsored, but if a rep from RyanAir is reading please subsidize a trip to Greece).

In any case, I’ll leave you with one last thought. You fall and you get back up again. This is life, and you will survive. And not barely, you will thrive.