Oberlin Blogs

Lebensmüde: Thanksgiving Musings

November 28, 2017

Ruth Bieber-Stanley ’21

This Thanksgiving break, instead of flying home to Albuquerque, I took a bus to NY City where my aunt picked me up and whisked me away to her lovely home in Kenilworth, New Jersey. The bus I took was with the company Shuttle Home, a bus service that serves 5 Ohio colleges and takes students to NY, DC, and Chicago during breaks. I am very lucky that this service exists, because it was a whole heck of a lot cheaper to take a bus, and I got to see my mom’s side of the family (the Biebers—no relation to Justin, before you ask). While I was sad not to be going home, it was really lovely to see my aunts and grandfather and cousins during my break.

My break was really fun, albeit not very restful. I spent a good amount of time on various forms of public transportation, watching movies with my aunt (I highly recommend Lion, The Big Sick, and Room With a View), and gallivanting across NY City, wherein I was blessed to experience the cliché yet wonderful NY holiday experience, Rockettes, sparkling lights, Macy’s windows and all. The change of scenery was refreshing, and I was shocked at how natural it felt to be in a completely different place for a few days. Sure, arriving in NY City at night after having been in Oberlin just that morning was odd, but the transition was more of a 1 than a 9 on the Richter scale of culture shock (pretend I didn’t just make that up). I suppose college has made me more adaptable, more comfortable with being uprooted and transported somewhere new. This is quite a contrast to where I was the week before college, devastated by the thought of leaving and convinced I was making a fatal error by moving 1500 miles across the country.

As Thanksgiving has just passed, I naturally reflected on things that I am newly thankful for. I am thankful that I can even go to Oberlin in the first place. I am thankful for music and dance and performance in all capacities. I am thankful that Oberlin has become a second home and that I have met so many wonderful people here. I am also thankful that I am able to leave Oberlin on occasion to reconnect with family. I am thankful for the telephone, and for good bagels, and for blue skies, which I took for granted living in New Mexico for 18 years. I am thankful for my friends who are always ready to listen to me when I need someone to do just that.

Though my break was full of many happy things, being on a bus for 19 hours over a course of 5 days gives one a lot of thinking time. The first thing I realized is that I am tired. Really tired. As I reach the end of the semester, it is becoming harder and harder to push through the amount of work I have to do. I am also conscious that in 19 days I will be going home for several weeks and that my first semester of college is almost over (who let that happen?!). There is a word in German that I quite like: lebensmüde*. It literally translates to “living tired.” That word pretty accurately describes my state of mind right now. Weary from life. Sometimes, a girl just needs a damn break, you know? What I really need right now is for my finals to be over and to be swaddled in a hug for a minimum of 24 hours. Any volunteers?

The second thing I realized is that I am lonely. This loneliness was accompanied with a vague sense of confusion. While I am a big fan of Inside Out and firmly believe that all emotions and feelings are valid, I can have a hard time reminding myself of that fact. I felt that I had no reason to be lonely. I have amazing friends, both at home in Albuquerque, at Oberlin, and scattered across the country. I have an incredibly warm and supportive family, and while I don’t see them every day like I used to, I know that they are still there waiting for me. I couldn’t understand why I felt so lonely and wistful sitting on a bus traveling through the middle of Pennsylvania when I knew that no matter where I was going, it would be to people I love. Today I saw all my friends again, and went to all my classes just like normal. I laughed and was happy to see everyone, but underneath there was an empty, hollow feeling in my chest. That loneliness was still there, and I couldn’t tell why.

I relayed all these thoughts to a friend of mine from high school. When I said I felt like I had no reason to feel lonely, she told me this:

“Ruth, what do you mean? You moved half way across the country, you have every reason to feel lonely beccause that's basically how college works. We're all really far away and it really sucks. BUT you have people who love you very very much. And this sounds cliché too, but they're with you in some capacity because they love you and you love them.”

Her words really helped me. I am far from home, and I haven’t seen my family in awhile, and I am homesick. Because my life at Oberlin is so busy and full and rich, and all of my energy is often devoted to anything and everything here, in this place, it is hard to remember that huge pieces of me are still somewhere else, and that the majority of my life hasn’t been here, it’s been in Albuquerque. I spent 18 years of my life in Albuquerque. I’ve spent basically five months in Oberlin. That’s roughly 2.3% of my entire life.

This isn’t a very positive post, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ll tell you a secret: as much as I wish this were true, college (and life) aren’t always easy! It can’t be sunshine and rainbows and unicorns all the time! The point of these blogs is to give my readers an unfiltered view of my college experience, and you’re looking at it. As much of a struggle as this semester has been at times, I am immeasurably grateful that I had people to get me through it. When I left for college I was very worried about building up a new support system from the bottom up. But that’s not how it works. You make your base broader, and build up from there. I speak to my family, my old friends, and my new Oberlin friends equally. There’s a whole lot of love in this world, and as hard as the end of the semester is, I know that I am surrounded by love here, and that as soon as I get off the plane in Albuquerque, love will be waiting.

*P.S. Several months after I published this post, I received an email from a former Oberlin blogger (Ida Hoequist! Check her out!) who generously informed me that "lebensmüde" actually means "suicidal." This was a beginner's error, and I promise I am not actually suicidal!! I am a healthy human bean most of the time. I still relate to the idea of "living tired," but I did not intend this post to be as dark as the meaning of the word might suggest. Thanks, Ida! 

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