Exactly one year ago, I was torn between excitement of my upcoming one-way flight to Oxford and sadness during my grandfathers funeral. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Oxford exactly one year. And what a year it’s been…
The first days were exciting, my boyfriend joined me for a flat-hunt. We were fairly successful and even had some spare time to enjoy Oxford and each others company. Things turned ugly pretty fast and I vividly remember the moment he walked out of the hotel room to return to Germany a few days later. I felt abandoned, lost, alone in a new city without anyone to talk to. Maybe I also released the emotions kept in during the funeral, as I didn’t need to pretend to be strong anymore. I forced myself out of the hotel room to allow cleaning, but all I wanted was to hide.
I was really glad when I could start work, so I wouldn’t be facing the hotel room anymore and had some distraction. Turned out that my colleagues are absolutely fabulous. There were many Christmas lunches, dinners and parties and before I knew it, I was on my way back home again for a two week Christmas break. Returning to Oxford was even more difficult than before, because I felt like leaving my real life in Germany on hold for a shallow substitute in Oxford.
Winter was grey, windy and rainy. My work seemed to progress albeit slowly. My boyfriend visited once, during a period of festivities back home he hated. I was really happy to have him over so unexpectedly, but in retrospect I already should’ve asked the question: why can you come to Oxford when the alternative, being at home, is worse than being here, but why can’t you come over just to see me?! I went home several times.
It became clear a long-distance relationship is going to be difficult and I started looking at alternatives. Could I go back without damaging my CV overly much? Doubt crept in though, because I realised I quite enjoyed being in Oxford and didn’t really want to go back. I started to realise it’s not fair to treat my time in Oxford as my life being on hold, because I’m living here and now. To be happy, I’d have to invest in hobbies and friends over here as well.
April then literally hit me. I had a freakish bike accident, which had me waking up in the hospital totally confused and lacking several teeth. When they asked who I’d like to call, I realised there wasn’t anyone in particular I’d like to call. Another wave of loneliness swallowed me for a week or so. I felt so terribly alone, I couldn’t face it and went to work two days after the accident, with my face stitched up and lacking teeth…
We decided it’s better to break up. He didn’t want to come here, nor me back, so we reached a stalemate. His grandfather died and I went back for the funeral. It was bizarre to hold him, to comfort him, in the knowledge that our relationship was over. But still caring enough about him to want to comfort him. Two weeks later, I went back again to sign the papers needed for our break. I sold my share of our house to him and we loaded a van with some of my possessions. Most of it stayed with him though: I didn’t think I’d be able to face the memories day after day.
The weeks that followed must’ve been the blackest of my life. Stripped of everything I held dear, I had no idea where to go. My friends weren’t here, my family needed me back home, I suddenly didn’t have a boyfriend, house or cats anymore. Progress at work was infuriatingly slow.
I hate cheesy sayings, but apparently time indeed heals. The months between then and now have been relatively quiet and given me plenty of opportunity for introspection. What do I want from life? What’s important? To be honest, I still don’t know, but I’ve reached the point where I’ll just go with the flow, do what feels good right here and right now. Anything else will follow. I realised I’m really not happy at work and tried to address it.
Because I felt I had nothing to loose anyway, I tried to explain to my boss why I am unhappy at work. We haven’t found a solution yet, but one of the reasons why I was disappointed is because I felt my input in a project went unacknowledged. After speaking about it, at least I’ll be an author on the manuscript and be included more. I’ve always been bad at speaking up for myself, but the current situation is definitely making me better at that.
I’ve started to see many more rays of light. Being on my own has forced me to make my own choices in everything I do. It made me more aware of my needs, more confident.
I’m organising a symposium. I’ve tried to address certain issues at work, which have been medium successful at most, but have led the Institute’s Director to tell me he’d write me a recommendation letter if I ever need one. He really appreciates the effort I’m making, even if my direct boss doesn’t see it. Apparently most people never speak up about issues they may have, which is a shame really.
I’ve been demonstrating in immunology classes and got lovely feedback. I’ve given my first ever lectures, on molecular biology and bioinformatics, and got good feedback on that as well. I’ll use the experience to write up a teaching portfolio, which’ll allow me to become an associate member of the Higher Education Academy.
I’ve picked up piano classes again, joined a group of people playing board games and another bunch of people going to the movies quite often. There’ve been ladies nights out. Or the occasional drink with colleagues. I’ve started volunteering at the Musea. Finally, I feel like my life is happening here. To the point where I’m not really looking forward to Christmas, as two weeks with my family is going to be odd. Especially because I’m not sure yet whether I want to face my ex again, or see the cats. That’ll probably make me incredibly sad and throw me back, so I probably won’t, which in itself is enough to make me sad again. Does that mean I’ll never see them again?!
So yes, the past year has been a special one. One that makes me realise I’m stronger than I think. Which has taught me a lot about myself. I’m not afraid of what the future may hold, but will just take it one day at a time. Let’s see where life takes me!