Last summer I decided that it was finally the time for me to have an exchange semester. I had found my comfort zone living and studying in Kosovo, and as months went by I realized that is was more than that. I, surprisingly enough, finally found a place where I belong and can call home. However, by the end of November 2017 I was constantly having the need to leave, meet new people and put my mom’s theory into test: “You only appreciate what you have and realize if that is what you truly want in life, when you are away!” I was feeling so overwhelmed, and afraid of this new feeling of belonging that one day when my best friend asked me -why did I have to go- I found myself answering -I need to get out of here- words that felt as if they were stuck in my chest for too long.
The only way was an exchange semester in Finland, for which I was both exited and terrified. Although it hasn’t been a month that I am here yet, my mother’s theory seems to be rather true. Certain occurrences have made me see what I want clearer by strengthening the feeling of belonging and by making me realize better where I want to be in the future, and all include the frozen lake.
Right behind the building where I will live for the next four months, there is a frozen lake. Considering that the snow levels always change, this lake is the only thing that helps me put my terrible orientation skills aside. However, last Friday it failed to do so, or better say I failed to find it. While I was walking from the campus to my apartment, I lost my way and went in the opposite direction. I kept going and found myself walking in the middle of nowhere. The pathway had fir-trees in both sideways and no sign of life was to be found. Considering that there was no one to ask about directions, and Google Maps apparently wasn’t functioning properly (as I would find out later) I kept following the instructions and going right ahead, desperately wanting to reach the end of the pathway. Similarly as I have been pushing things towards a certain direction, the one that I have wanted to. I finally reached a highway, and I turned left, walking even further from the place I had to go. I had been walking for about 30 minutes, in the snow while the temperatures were -6 degrees. At that moment, I was freezing and terrified, and I had lost hope that I would find the way back, until I saw a woman running. I asked her for directions and turned around, after another 20 minutes walk I found the lake. The feeling of seeing something familiar and just standing there looking through the frozen lake and the trees and the whiteness that surrounds it, and feeling safe at last made me shred into tears. The only thing I wanted to do was call someone and ask them to convince me to stay or leave everything and go home. However, standing there by the shore, happy that I was safe and found my way, despite being in a place that is completely different from what I am used to, made me realize that everything happens for a reason. Pushing things towards a direction just because you are afraid of the outcome is never the answer. At the end, if something is meant to be, it will find its way to happen. So I wiped my tears, walked back to the apartment and sent some text-messages turning this experience into a funny one.
Today, that finally the temperatures went below -10 degrees and is possible to walk in the lake, together with some other exchange students we decided to walk through the lake to the frozen island in the middle of it. I remained silent, while I was overthinking every step of the way and being horrified by the idea that the ice would crack. But as much closer as we were to the island, the more I started to calm and feel confident that nothing bad would happen. When I stepped foot in the island and was looking around surrounded by the frozen trees, a feeling of peacefulness surrounded me. It was as if someone was hugging me while telling me to calm down and reassuring me that everything was going to be alright. Those trees surviving there alone in the middle of a frozen lake, made me realize that we are all like that. Frozen islands in the middle of frozen instances of lives, sticking together to survive. It takes a lot of courage to walk through it considering that it might crack and that could be the end of everything. However, what we forget, what I always keep forgetting, is that when you come to the end of a pathway, everything will be worth it when you look back. And then, you will have to start a new pathway that will be as hard or even harder than the first one. But again, if that is the right pathway you will find ways to go to the end of it, happy and finally calm.