Well, I've just arrived in Strasbourg, and gotten settled into the apartment where I'll be living for the next four months. I haven't gotten to see much of my host family yet, although we'll be eating dinner later, so there will be plenty of time.
First thing is first. I don't want this blog to become a travel blog; I'm sick of travel blogs. Everyone has a travel blog this year. I'm not going to bore you with the details that are France; if you want to learn about it, try learning the language and coming here yourself. This may sound a bit harsh and perhaps ignorant, but I can find no other way to say it. As always, the reason that I will write this blog is primarily for myself, and not for any readership (not that I expect there to be much of one), and for the most part, I don't care about the details.
Let me revise that statement. Of course I care about the details, I care about them very much. But at the same time, they aren't why I'm here. I'm not here to learn about the color of paint on the front door, or the way the flowers are planted across the street. I'm here to learn about French culture, to immerse myself in their lifestyle, to improve my skills in the language, and hopefully, to develop and mature in ways that I would not otherwise. And these things, these important things, aren't the kind of things that you can simply capture with a few words in a blog here and there. You can try of course, and that is what I intend to do, but you must always try with the understanding that you are doomed to failure, and a certain sense that you must at least try to focus on the things most universal, most human, and most real, in order to make any headway. The act of recording is not about the data recorded; it is about the analysis of the data itself, through which new data arises and the process repeats itself. You don't learn, and then blog. You blog, and then learn, and then learn again, and you do this until the day that your short existence comes to an end.
That being said, I experienced (and perhaps still experience) some of the greatest fear that I have ever known, preparing for this trip. Unsure what to expect, how I would get here, how everything would work out, all these things ran through my mind. My relationship with my girlfriend hit a bit of a lowpoint just before I left, though that has resolved itself, and I fear that for the most part it was just myself taking out my anxiety over the upcoming circumstances on her. My fear will pass, naturally, as I become accustomed to my surroundings, but until then my heart pounds too quickly, too often.
Writing has gone well. Over the course of the last summer, I've managed to put in an hour or two a day, as many days a week as I could fit. Of course, this didn't work out too well on certain weeks when I was working quite a few hours, but for the most part I held to this schedule as best I could. The result, so far, has been a little over 100 pages of what I plan to be my first novel. I'm terribly proud of how well it's shaped up, in my eyes, over the course of its writing. In the beginning, I had a very simple plan sketched out in my mind, a plan that I carefully built up and added complexity to, making me proud of my ability to write. There are certainly a few mistakes here and there, as I could not always remember exactly what I had written in past segments, but for the most part it is a terribly cohesive whole, moving perfectly toward the direction I want it to go. I feel roughly halfway done, maybe a little further, and it's probably the first thing I've actually wanted to see to the conclusion since I began writing.
It's hard to explain, what it means to be content. Sure, you can have short-lived pleasure, you can enjoy a night out or a time spent with a friend, but pleasure has nothing to do with total contentment, which results from the planning of a purpose in life, and following it out to its conclusion. Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning might be a proper reference to make in this case. Purpose in life, and ultimately happiness and all reason for living, results from making our own goals and plans for ourselves, plans which are constructed so as to be challenging and yet not too much so, and then meeting them over periods of extended time. This is the sort of thing that I find myself coming into now, and the sort of thing that gives me the greatest joy.
It's so hard to describe the feeling of contentment, especially to many of the younger generation of which I am a part, who have not yet made their own lives, purposes, and dreams. I did not think myself too far apart from others, and yet here I am, looking back, realizing that the first part of my dream is well on the way to its conclusion. When I do anything, I compare the pleasure I experience now to writing, and rarely is it any compare.
It is also true that I have become perhaps a tad more hermit-like in the past year. I've come to greatly appreciate the value of solitude, and I love it perhaps more than anything else. This is difficult to reconcile with myself as a social being, and yet to me the glory of solitude is a natural complement to the other glories that are the social being; it simply so happens that the values which the hermit-life espouses, are the ones that I value most. I always had misgivings, during my month-long vow of silences, yet now I am finding this same vow of silence with me, whenever I have five minutes to myself. It is all the same to me, and it is all glorious.
I must go now, for I have tarried here too long.