My last post was ultra-depressive, so sorry about that. Following an epiphany, reached when I plummeted to rock bottom the weekend before last and spent the entire weekend in bed with the curtains shut, surrounded by empty fast food wrappings and vodka bottles, I realised that this was absolutely not going to work, and so I had a few choices:
(a) Continue in said fashion until I die of obesity / alcohol poisoning / lack of mental stimulation and social interaction
(b) Give up and go home
(c) Try to pull myself together and work on creating a life for myself here, instead of despairing about the lack of one.
I settled on (c).
I really do want to stick it out for the duration of my contract – the school’s name and a good reference from them will set me in good stead for the future, and they also offer a lot of great professional development opportunities that I really should take advantage of while I have the chance.
Not only that, but I’ve come to hate Prague. Hate it. Practically nothing about it has given me the happy traveller glow I’ve experienced in a great number of places across the world – and yet it’s supposedly a beautiful, charming, beloved city. You might think my hatred would be a reason to opt for (b), but no. There must be a million things to love about this place – it’s only my depression that’s preventing me from seeing them. Hatred by association: I’m miserable, therefore I hate this place. Something in me refuses to leave while I feel like that. I can’t write off a place like Prague before I’ve truly attempted to enjoy it.
And so, I’ve started taking little baby steps to catch a grip of myself and reestablish contact with the outside world.
I opened my curtains, threw open the window to let in some fresh November air, and cleaned the flat vigorously while blasting Queen’s Greatest Hits.
I resolved to start cooking proper meals again, and only eat fast food when it’s an absolute emergency and there’s not even the option of quickly grabbing a sandwich from a shop before my next class.
I spoke to someone. Actually forced myself to make small talk in the staff room. Granted, tears welled up in my eyes while I was in the middle of this, and the poor girl was possibly quite concerned for my state of mental health, but it was the first step – and led to her dragging me out to a cafe for a chat, and inviting me round to her place for “cat therapy” (turned out she has a cat who looks like Kat’s long lost sibling). Cat therapy involved poking at the poor creature with a feather on a stick while it looked at me with an expression of utter feline contempt. It was perfect. We went for a walk in a nearby forest (the colleague and me, I mean – the cat stayed at home, recovering from its ordeal), chatted about nothing in particular, and I returned home caked in mud and feeling ridiculously euphoric about having chosen socialising over the next season of whatever endless TV show I was currently staring at in my litter-strewn flat.
I spoke to someone else. Had Sunday brunch in a bookshop-slash-cinema-slash-cafe, went to Prague Castle, wandered around. I’m still genuinely not that impressed, but we had coffee and cake in the world’s largest medieval castle, on a balcony with a stunning view, and who could complain about that, really?
I made plans to go shopping this weekend for some new clothes to make me feel less meh. Have also asked around about English-speaking hairdressers, for the necessary “fresh start” haircut, much like after a crushing break-up.
I booked my flights home for Christmas, and am determined not to count down the days, but to enjoy the festive season in Prague, visit Christmas markets, drink mulled wine etc., all in the knowledge that it will take me just a few hours to get home to my family, Kat the Cat, and general merriment and cosiness, after my final class of the year.
I am not full of the joys of life, but I’m working on getting there again. Three specific moments today made me remember what it’s like to feel normal. Well, I say “normal” – I mean more like myself, you know.
The first was when I chose to be 2 minutes late for work when I was so tired I could barely stumble up the steps from the metro. I’d kept hitting snooze for so long (I’m sorry, but the alarm going off at 5.30am will never feel acceptable to me) that I hadn’t had time to make a pot of coffee, and I was filled with utter dread at the prospect of spending 3 hours with pack of 5-and-6-year-olds without any caffeine in my system. I found a hole-in-the-wall coffee place that served me the most enormous and potent espresso I have ever had in my life, and it had practically blown my head off by the time I walked to the pre-school. I had one of the best teaching mornings I’ve ever had, and left smiling.
The second was when my vacuum cleaner exploded. I’m not being melodramatic – it actually exploded. Chugga-chugga-click-clunk-BOOM. smoke, flames, the works. It was at least a decade old, and hasn’t worked all that well since I got here, anyway, but still. No one likes a small house fire in their lunch break. Sneezing and choking, I dealt with the disaster, secured the area, went to the shops, bought a new one, vacuumed up all the dust and dirt spewed over the floor from the Great Vacuum Cleaner Explosion 2013, made myself a cup of coffee, and read a bit of Bill Bryson. None of this may sound terribly thrilling, but it was such a vast improvement on how I would have dealt with it a week ago (cry, scream, swear, throw things, drink, go to bed in a temper, die from massive dust-induced asthma attack in my sleep) that I felt like I’d just discovered a miraculous cure for some awful disease, or won a marathon, or something.
And the third? The third was just now, when, as I turned down the heat on the stove to let my pot of Korean dakbokkeumtang simmer for an hour, I thought to myself for the first time in months: I want to write.
Onwards and upwards, one small step at a time.