How I Beat the “One-Two Combo”

Nostalgia (näˈstaljə) n.: The sentimental state of mind in which wistfully great memories of the past slap you in the face with reminiscence and a heavy longing for their return. Sometimes, it punches you in the stomach too. Believe me, this “one-two combo” is no joke; it’s been hitting me a lot lately. And the more you get hit in the same place, the more it hurts.

Last week, I sat in class rescheduling my final exams for an earlier date. I pulled up my calendar and counted down the days until I left Budapest. That’s when the motherfucker hit me. I was already feeling nostalgic just thinking about returning to the States, but counting down the days did something different. All of a sudden, I realized that my departure was imminent and tangible; there was virtually no chance of me staying in this country (or continent for that matter). And even if I somehow found a way to do so, would it still be the same without the people who helped me construct such a profound framework of memories?

I pictured an hourglass, slowly dribbling grains of sand into the already-brimming bottom bulb. Time was running out, and reality was ready to grab me by the throat and throw me back into corporate America. Nostalgia, you really, really suck sometimes.

But over the past week, I spent some time thinking about how I could beat this feeling, how I could counter Señor Nostalgia and his mighty “jab and cross.” Because, you know, I’m still human and would appreciate the 1-minute break. I re-read my blogs, re-looked at my Budapest pictures, and even re-perused all my emails saved in my “study abroad” folder… And the transition from my first arrival in Budapest to this very day was unreal. The amount of fun, friendships, and personal development in character and worldly knowledge was something I could never exchange for anything else in the world. I started to understand how important this entire experience was for me, and I felt better. A lot better.

You’re right. You’ll never be able to completely relive the memories you have made for yourself and those around you. But what’s important is not that the memories have past, but that they were created in the first place. Nostalgia is a funny thing; you hate it because you want such great times in the past to be recreated, but you love it because the past created something in you. Whether it was your personality, comfort zone, wistful memoirs, appreciation for the world, or stomach, something grew. You are now able to say that you know more about the world around you; that you met amazing people spanning across several continents and countries; that no matter what country, what language, or what culture you come from, we can relate to each other. There is something more intrinsic than just communication when it comes to building strong relationships; a giant web of your personality, actions, and honest effort is what makes or breaks true friendships. This is how I realized the incredible value of my time in Budapest, and how it took the entire experience to gain this much from it.

To be completely honest, I’m still not completely un-nostalgic. I still yearn to go back in time and see Wax Tailor with my friends, travel to Barcelona and rage at Abroadfest, and even go to Szimpla again and have a couple beers with my friends. But I think I beat Señor Nostalgia in the best possible way- to learn as much as possible. Besides, I can’t physically punch a feeling anyway.

I am truly blessed for this experience, and I will treasure each and every moment I have left in this country.

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A Big Small World

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this to happen. After treating my body like a wastebasket for alcohol, cigarettes, and Turkish kebabs this past month, I’ve come down with a cold. Symptoms include: minor headaches, coughing, and a large dose of sobriety. That’s right, folks. I’ve given up alcohol this entire weekend (gasp). “Jason, why are you being so lame? You’re in Budapest to have all kinds of fun and games and shit!” Yes, I know, I know. But my inconsistent weight training and vampiric sleeping habits are draining the life out of me. At the very least, this break gives me an opportunity to reflect on my time here, garner the remaining intellectual prowess I may still have in that noggin of mine, and produce a somewhat-deep development of thought. So here goes nothing…

Every once in a while, a profound thought will bash into me like a semi-truck colliding into a brick wall. Or maybe like an unexpected slap in the face by a woman friend who is ever so slightly dissatisfied with your mischief. You get the point. Either way, it is an instant at which I’m able to mentally capture the significance of what’s presently occurring. This profound thought typically materializes during situations in which I am surrounded by several of my closest friends in Budapest who are from across the globe. We’re all able to communicate with each other, and though conversations aren’t as natural or as smooth as with other native English speakers, it is a different kind of pleasance I’ve never felt before. Each person brings their own thoughts, culture, and breadth of meaning with every sentence, and at the end of the day, we are all enjoying ourselves in the company of others.

What’s surprising is that I’m able to relate to my friends here several degrees more than with many others back in the States. Just a few weeks ago at a thermal spa in Eger, I was conversing with a good friend of mine from Holland, and we delved into topics about jobs, family, and the principles of happiness. Woah. Didn’t expect that one, did ya? Well neither did I at the time. Other experiences like this with friends from Belgium, Germany, Canada, Brazil, and many other parts of the world, have taught me that the world is quite small but full of people who share the same interests, understandings, and profound notions of our lives in this world. Whether it’s at a dinner party at my flat, in a thermal spa on the Buda side of the city, or even at a ruin pub, I continue to meet more people who are subtly shrinking the world for me.

Concisely, the world is much smaller than you think. With an open mind and a willingness to explore, you can find big people in this small world, those that are big enough to teach you something new or to simply impart happiness into your life. I’m lucky enough to have already met many amazing people like this from all over the world, and I can’t wait for what’s in store over the next 4 months.

Eger Thermal Spa

The Lady on the Plane

It was quite nerve wracking. I’d never been to Europe before, and I’m spending almost half a year in a country that neither the language nor the geography did I understand. Each minute that passed had made me doubt my decision, and I asked myself whether or not I made the right choice with going abroad. But it was way too late for that, and I knew somewhere inside all this anxiety there was excitement. I just had to find it.

As my parents wished me off, I boarded the plane and waited no longer than 30 minutes before it sailed towards the Atlantic. Here is where I sat next to a lady with a wonderfully colorful red shirt with black diamond patterns. She had a very motherly disposition with a kind face and warm smile. We engaged in a light conversation, exchanging our destination plans and living locations in Georgia. Her name was Sherry, and she made her residence near the Blue Ridge Mountains, almost 90 minutes north of where I live.

Sherry and I began to talk about richer topics, whether it was the importance of experience, or the ability to take care of your loved ones. Two hours into the conversation, it reached a critical point. As I was explaining to her my obligation and responsibility to my parents, she told me that her son passed away 4 years ago. Although I do not know the cause, she began telling me the story of her son. He was not only a bright student, but he also had a dream much larger than his own life. During his adult years, he moved to San Francisco where he worked to provide bare necessities for the less privileged and homeless, taught classes for disabled children, and opened his own soup kitchen. I was a little embarrassed, but my eyes started swelling with tears.

Sherry told me that she forwent her only opportunity to visit him right before he passed because of certain obligations at home. In a way, her mind out-reasoned her heart, and she was unable to see him before the unbearable happened. She told me to always listen to my heart, no matter what. The mind may try to convince you otherwise, but the heart speaks so much more that logic simply cannot explain.

That is what Sherry taught me today. We rely too much on the mind, with logic and reason dominating our decisions, even though our hearts tell us to do something else. To forget the intrinsic power of the heart is to abandon our “6th sense”- our ability to make decisions because something much more powerful inside us is speaking. All we have to do is listen.

As we arrived in Germany, we exchanged business cards and phone numbers. Though I don’t expect to see her again, I am thankful that she shared her wisdom with me. I hope to write her soon, so that I can thank her for the kind, thoughtful, and deep words. What an amazing introduction to my trip.