Across the Pond Pt. 3: Short-changed
It was day three of my solo adventure from London to Edinburgh via a dodgy but cheap eight-hour nighttime Megabus ride in early November 2018. The morning began with a picturesque hike up Arthur’s Seat, coming to the perfect finish with afternoon tea and exploration of the Holyrood Palace afterwards. St. Giles Cathedral and the Writer’s Museum were my next stops, and I was finishing up the evening with another tourist attraction. I grinned at the cashier as I handed him my debit card, eager to see Edinburgh’s famed camera obscura at the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions museum.
However, my smile was not returned as a slightly concerned expression sprawled across the man’s face, which deepened with the card machine’s incessant beeping. I urged the man to try one last time. Nothing. With an awkward goodbye, I breezed out of the shop. Perhaps it had been
a fluke. Never mind, maybe I’d buy tickets to go see a movie at a nearby vintage theater. I entered my payment information on their website, and, sure enough, my card was denied again. Frustration and concern bubbled in my chest and prompted my legs to quickly carry me to the ATM down the street. I tried withdrawing money several times to no avail. With a blank fluorescent screen staring back at me, I began to panic. I paced helplessly in front of the ATM before plopping myself onto a bench to avoid looking like a deranged tourist or an easy target. I called my dad to let him know what happened, but as it was very early in the morning his time, it would be several hours before he could alert our bank. But who was I kidding, my parents were halfway across the world and there was very little they could do? I took a deep breath and looked up at the clear night sky. I was alone in a foreign country with only a few pounds left in my pocket, barely enough to get back to my Airbnb, and not enough for food. And I had a full day of my trip left. What was I to do?
Like that evening, I am feeling a bit short-changed by God now. Debilitating stomach pains and paralyzing bouts of nausea continue to sweep through my body all hours of the day and night after six months of being back in the United States. As I recuperate at home after an exhausting semester of maintaining academic excellence while suffering the perhaps the most I ever have in my life, I feel as panicked, alone, lost, and without answers as I did that fateful night in Edinburgh. Being unable to be as active or productive as I usually am and having no school to distract me, I feel myself falling victim to the false belief that since I am producing very little, I am worthless.
However, I continue to hold on each day as I know deep down that God is still there, plan in hand. I think that’s what kept me from fully coming unglued that night in Edinburgh. With God’s help, I was able to adapt to the situation by asking my generous Airbnb host for assistance. She went above and beyond, giving me a bit of her dinner, opening her pantry to me, and lending me the last five pounds she had in her pocket. I was also blessed that a good friend who had transferred schools happened to be studying abroad in the same city. After hearing of my situation, he unselfishly shared a delicious dinner with me at a nearby pizza spot. The next morning, I surveyed my moneyless sightseeing options and was pleased to see that there was no shortage of things to do. My day in the beautiful botanical gardens and a long walk to the modern art museum instead of a costly bus ride was my favorite out of the whole trip. As I entered the garden, the trees seemed to smile and wave as they shook their sunny yellow leaves in greeting. Their rich brightness added warmth to an otherwise overcast and drizzly day. Serene waterfalls and reflective ponds peeked out from under the greenery, which was dotted with splashes of orange and red as some foliage transitioned to their autumnal displays. A vivid red Chinese-inspired bridge and nearby pagoda added interest to the scene. Moments later, my contented sigh turned to a gasp as I rounded a corner and was confronted with a massive, impeccably trimmed hedge, unlike anything I’d ever seen. Beautiful glasshouses with large, patterned windows sat behind the tall wall of plants and beckoned passerby inside. Barely able to tear myself away, I continued my walk and arrived at the modern art museum. On its frieze was a serendipitous message displayed in neon blue lights: “Everything is going to be all right.” And indeed, it was. I was able to purchase some snacks with the fiver my Airbnb host had gifted me before I boarded my eight-hour Megabus ride back to London. Like my host and study abroad friend, my family and friends have and continue to go above and beyond to help me in any way they can. My doctor, who God had me cross paths with by chance, is working tirelessly to discover and treat the cause of my elusive illness. This sickness involves debilitating episodes of migraines and stomach pain that has plagued me since the day after my return to the U.S. on December 17th, 2018. I go to war each day on the battlefield in my mind and fight to remain victorious over my negative thoughts. I use the resourcefulness I developed in Edinburgh to adapt to my unusual situation. Although I may not be able to go explore Europe like my friends or take all the dance classes I want, I can find joy in things like writing, experimenting with healthy recipes, reading, catching up on Netflix shows, and spending time with my mom. Plus, I have been blessed with a remote writing internship that allows me to rest at home while working. When I look more closely at my circumstances, God has not short-changed me at all.
Like my church counsellor says, life is like an onion, and God is constantly peeling back layers to reveal the truest, strongest me. Although this may cause me tears, and though it seems like I just overcame similar health circumstances just a year ago, I know God has something new to teach me this time. I can feel myself being moulded into a calmer, happier person who is growing more comfortable with seasons of rest. I may be feeling poor, but in my heart, I know I am rich with the love and support of family, friends, and many others.
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