One year ago today, I got off a plane in Prague. For the second time in my life, I left everything I knew behind to move across the ocean without a safety net. The first time, I only made it four months. But in that four months of feeling totally lost, I think I found myself. I climbed a mountain on my own and reveled in my ability to drop completely off the map. Without a cellphone, roommate, or much in the way of friends, I was free to disappear whenever I wanted. Sure, it was lonely and I wouldn't trade all of my Prague friends for that freedom, but there is something to be said for some self-discovery.
But in the past year, I feel like I've ridden a roller coaster of self-awareness. I find new things I care about, only to completely ignore them in favor of fitting in. I've tried so hard to fit in, much harder than I ever did in Korea, that I feel like I've lost myself. In the past two months, I've been rediscovering things about myself that I felt the need to hide. Little by little, I created this skin for survival. A month ago, I took my first big step to shedding it.
So many people had been complimenting my hair, which was longer than it had been since I was eight and hadn't been cut in a year. But one day, as I was walking home from the train station, I bought a clipper set. I started with the braids, which were not easy to cut off. What I thought would be two snips turned into a few minutes of sawing. Then they were gone. I could have stopped there, maybe I should have. But I continued, with a literal feeling of a weight lifted off my shoulders. It took over an hour to buzz my hair, with Bikini Kill playing in the background and intense nostalgia for that first buzz cut outside of Sessions House six years ago. At first, I had a few regrets. Now I have none. This wasn't so much a choice of aesthetics as a choice against aesthetics. I didn't want to have a more flattering haircut, I simply wanted my hair not to matter. I wanted not to judge myself on my appearance so much. And it's helped. After my birthday, I'm looking in the mirror at my wrinkles and grey hairs less. I choose my shoes based on what's practical. I've stopped caring so much about being, essentially, popular. I'm picking Saturday morning farmers' markets over Friday nights out. I'm remembering what it feels like to lie in a field and watch the grass blow in the wind. I'm waking up in the morning without regrets about the night before, stretching, and smiling at my own armpit hair.
While I'm not moving to a shack in Walden, I'm making a different sort of self-discovery move. Let's see how the anonymity of city life works for me this time around. So, anyone got a room to rent in Prague starting in December?