Aged in Athens

Despite the word of the month for August 2017 being “appreciative,” I have been anything but.

In fact, I have unceremoniously dipped into a reservoir of bitterness and woeful pity “Why me?” since arriving back in Athens, on crutches, again.

Same old, same old.

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Athens hasn’t changed a bit — all the brick buildings and the green trees and the perpetual lack of parking spaces are still here, as I remembered. It’s smaller this time around, though. After a whirlwind tour of Rome, Berlin, and Leipzig in 7 days, I guess you could say my perception of space and time is now a little skewed across the Atlantic. 5,000-or-so miles, back and forth each way, will do that to an earthling.

No, it’s me that’s changed this year. And not changed.

I’ve been describing this sensation to my friends as: “I feel old.” Athens has aged me. Or rather, I have aged in Athens over the last 4 years.

I see the jubilant freshie-freshmen jaunting down Court Street, with their freshly purchased OHIO Athletics backpacks (still with the tags on), and I wince. There I am, walking with my one-arm crutch and my same tattered lanyard from summer 2014. I haven’t had that vigor for coming to college since … well, my freshman year!

Time has seasoned me good, like a healthy dose of nutmeg or cinnamon in my morning breakfast bowl. The physical markings aren’t always there, though my skin has changed a bit; no, it’s an unspeakable feeling of weightiness in my bones (perhaps it’s all the breaking of them, too) that’s adding an additional layer of anxiety over my senior year.

I’m here in Athens in my final fall semester, and I’m uselessly immobile.

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Absolutely no biking or running for me, and certainly not even walking without pain. Balancing back and forth on a pair of fractured shin bones has me pining for the days when all was well. Which was apparently all just an illusion, as I see now I’m merely reaping the ill-sown crop of osteopenia and aggravated, addicted running — not to mention a protein-and-calcium-deficient vegan diet — for close to 2? 3? years. Time is all blurring together for me, now.

This summer sobered me up, in more ways than I ever wanted to learn in 4 months.

I started the summer with nothing but time, but then quickly lost all manner of time in a matter of days. From June 14 to August 26, I was a weather-service-registered tropical storm on the verge of hurricane status — barely able to contain all of my energy and emotions from Shadyside, to Chicago, to Europe, and then (finally) to Athens. I still don’t know if I’ve had the time to process it all yet, as I’ve already traversed into the thralls of another bound-to-be-busy semester.

I’ve felt incredible loss. I’ve faced blunt rejection. I’ve had chronic and acute knee pain since the beginning of June. I’m still not sure yet what or where in the world I’m doing and going after graduation.

But.

But I made an incredible group of friends this summer, my second with NSLC, amid rekindling old friendships from last year’s magical months in Berkeley. I got to see another part of the world with one of my best friends, and I moved into my first apartment with a dear friend.

Time isn’t always kind, and it doesn’t always make sense. In the same 4 months of rejection and injury, I experienced new joys and everlasting memories. In the same 4 years of aging in Athens, I’ve had transformations and tribulations. I’ve stumbled, I keep stumbling, but I keep smiling — or, at the very least, I keep trying.

I may feel aged in Athens, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve done some significant growing up here, from the anxiety of journalism school to the indecision of a big decision now to the comfort of classes and the unpredictability graduation season will undoubtedly bring.

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Athens has been my hOUme, and I am grateful for its many lessons. Now, in my final year of schooling (for the time being), I will be mindful to remember all of the good with the bad, the happy with the sad. I will strive to be grateful instead of grumbling, to be kind to myself as well as to others.

For there is still much I have yet to learn.

-bnb