Goodbye Mom I’m going to a far off country where I won’t know a single person

SURPRISE! I’m leaving the country. In a few months I will be embarking on the quintessential college experience: the semester abroad. Yikes!

So you know that thing I was talking about in my last post- the whole “very dependent on other people” thing? I wasn’t kidding when I said I was trying to work on that. It’s been an unsuccessful venture so far. In order to maintain happiness I have to spend every moment of my day with another person. It has come to my attention that this is not normal human behavior. Most people seem to enjoy alone time? I need to get better at that. I need to learn how to stop depending so much on others and start enjoying my own company.

The problem is, I’m never going to do that if Abby is in the bed next to mine, or if Kiki is down the street, or if Way, Luis, and Tiernee are just a phone call away. So I’m doing the ole sink or swim. By moving very very very far away.

Starting this summer, I’m moving to New Zealand for six months. Ah! There, I said it! It’s real now! This is my challenge. Because I call my mom an average of three to seven times a day, and because I have had the same best friend for sixteen years. I am very attached to people. It’s time to do something really scary and awesome by myself. And this is the scariest and most awesome thing I could think of.

There’s only the small issue of having an incurable disease. It’s a bit of baggage that I’d rather not take with me.

I went to the hospital about a week ago for some routine checkup stuff. While I was there a nurse took nine vials of blood out of my arm. I just got the results of my bloodwork emailed to me- the email is full of medical jargon- but I know that now, in addition to my current medications, I will be adding another shot (once a week this time) and three new oral pills. This is nerve wracking because I am classically terrible at remembering to take my medication.

After I gathered up all my new prescriptions I expressed my worry to Jon and he came up with an idea: I’m not good at remembering the difference between medications, but I am good at remembering people. So we painstakingly looked up the effects of each of my new pills and tried to tie them in to some part of somebody I know. The one that will give me more energy is now represented by my mom, because she never gets tired. The pill that boosts my immune system to help me beat colds now gets a picture of my roommate Abby on it, because she has allergies and is perpetually sniffling in the springtime. This is how I’ll remember to take all of my medication every day. By putting faces to the prescriptions.

In just a few months, all of those faces will be very far away. They’ll be pictures on bottles instead of people I see every day. And even scarier- what about the next time I’m feeling overwhelmed? Who do I go to then? How do I make my own plan when Jon and everything he does for me is several continents away? And my dad, who cooks me special food, and my mom, who sorts through my prescriptions and schedules surgeries, and my doctor…

There are a lot of things to worry about when you have Crohn’s Disease. Similarly, there are a lot of things to worry about when you want to study abroad. I’m doing my best to combine the two without losing my mind. I’m trying to figure out where I’ll live (and if I’ll ship my shots straight to NZ or bring them with me when I fly over) and what classes I’ll be taking (and how to apply for disability at this new university) and whether or not my scholarship will transfer (and whether or not I’ll be able to fax the results of my bloodwork across the world.) I’ll have to learn how to give myself shots in the leg, and how to cook gluten-free dairy-free food, and do all of the other little things that go into taking care of myself that I’ve been lucky enough to spread out over several other people so far.

I want to leave. I do. I want to do something drastic. I want to have an adventure. But when I think about all of the people who help me manage my sickness and realize that for six months they will only be faces on screens and voices I hear over phone lines… I don’t know. I get scared. Homesick, maybe, for the people I love most.

I guess I could say they’ll be with me in my heart and blah blah blah (and to be perfectly honest I do tell that to myself in the dark before I fall asleep) but that is not the point of this story. That is not the point of this move. I’m not worried about whether or not I’ll make new friends in New Zealand or whether or not I’ll lose touch with my current friends. I know enough about myself now to understand that I will not lose anybody worth losing, no matter how far away we’ll be from each other. What I’m worried about is being alone. Actually being on my own for the first time ever, and not being able to function.

I depend so much on other people- my mom gets the brunt of it, and then my friends, and then family and strangers and people on sidewalks and waiters and classmates and everyone. I love myself. But I think I only truly love myself because all of the people I care about, the ones whose opinions I hold to a higher esteem, show me each day that I am worth loving. I want to know what happens if I take that constant support and guidance away. I want to know if I will still exist.

I hope I do make friends when I get to New Zealand. I hope I can show them that I am worth loving instead of waiting for them to prove it to me. I hope I can remember to take all of my pills, and that if something bad and unexpected does happen that there will be good people around to help me. And I hope that I scare the crap out of myself, and come away better for it.

And anyway, it’s just a temporary leaving. That’s what makes it possible.

For those of you who tweeted or messaged me that you wanted to stay updated on Operation Five by Finals, here it is: I have gained one pound. Sometimes two, depending on what time of day it is. It’s not quite where I need to be yet, but it’s progress. It’s a start. Thank you guys for all of the support. No matter what part of the world I head to, I’ll always have my blog, and that means I’ll have access to this incredible group of people who are so willing to give me kindness when I need it. I’m very grateful to all of you for reading.

4 thoughts on “Goodbye Mom I’m going to a far off country where I won’t know a single person

  1. Love that you are taking this leap Shannon! It’s something I decided to take on when I chose to go to a college states away without knowing a soul. It’s humbling, but you really do become more independent and comfortable knowing who you are as a person. You’ll get it all figured out! Plus there is always Skype! Last semester my best friend was studying in England. I’ll never forget skyping her at 3am my time to talk to her when my ex broke up with me and when I got overwhelming sad about Jessi. Just take it one task/day/moment at a time 🙂 you can do it


  2. You’re going to be so close to me!! I’m just across the ditch in Brisbane. And I am so in awe of you! Ever since I was diagnosed with UC (about 9 months ago) I have put all of my travel plans on hold, because it just seems too hard to have to figure out what I’m going to eat and where I’m going to shop and how I’m going to cook and everything else in another city, much less another country! So I look forward to reading about your experiences – you’re such an inspiration!


  3. First of all, congratulations for your progress in Operation Five by Finals 🙂
    I wish the situation will keep getting better and I also wish that your semester abroad will go well.
    I’m sure this experience will be very enriching. There may be some hardships but what is an adventure without a bit of challenge 😉 ?


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