This was written about 1 week into my move to Prague. I am only getting around to posting this now because the course I enrolled in wound up being very intense, and didn’t leave me with much extra time.
A decade or more into your adult life, you wear pretty deep grooves into your own personal ruts. There’s a kind of sludge through which you move and through which your days move, the same things, the same thoughts, the same experiences, the same-same. I had definitely felt this way for awhile but had chalked it up to just being an adult, and had accepted it as some notion of what being an adult meant: this is life, get over yourself. Sure, I might go forward a bit, and backward a bit, and it felt like movement, but the movements were so repetitive, they just dug me into the rut further, until two walls of mud grew up between me so high, I couldn’t see over them, and after awhile, didn’t even notice they were there. It just felt normal to have months go by and wonder where they’d gone.
So if living in North Carolina had started to feel like my life was a tire stuck in mud, I didn’t just get some help with pushing it out. Instead I planned a long time, put a polite note on the car and then (yes, with help from many friends) scrambled up the embankment where I boarded an alien craft that deposited me upside down in a completely new environment. Just like everything for a long time was same-same, suddenly everything was new-new: signs and sounds and smells and music and architecture and people and language. Half-naked lady statues carved into every building; statues of horses; statues of saints and iron grillwork and pastel-colored 19th century buildings where people still live and where the potraviny on the bottom floor sells you cold bottles of kofola, the Czech cola that tastes like a Ricola cough drop has been melted into it. Walking around, riding the tram, taking it in: it feels a bit like my brain is pleasantly on fire. I can feel myself firing; my brain is working better here.
And what I realized was this: when you’re essentially living a decently comfortable if uneventful life in a place where things are easily understood, you don’t have any chances to surprise yourself. What you expect to happen happens, and you feel like you know what there is to know about yourself. Moving to a drastically different place has made me realize I have unusual reserves of pluckiness and some unsuspected talents. I am picking up Czech faster than I thought was humanly possible, and buried words I have not spoken in 20 years are coming back to me unbidden. Dormant words like kachna (duck!), sprcha (shower!), dohromady (together!) were just waiting around to be remembered. I also found that I have a better sense of direction than I thought I did, and that things like maps aren’t impossible. For some reason, I had always thought myself bad at navigating physical space, but whatever mental sludge ideas about myself I had accumulated were quickly wiped clean when faced with new challenges like figuring out how to get home on two different modes of clean and efficient public transportation.
Now, I am one month and one day into living in Prague. Everything is still new, but there are, thankfully, a few normalcies on which I can rely. Most of this will be again shot to hell though, as I’m moving again next week to a different part of Prague and my days won’t be spent in school, but hopefully, relatively soon, in the Czech workforce. I learned, in a month, how to be a teacher, though realistically, it probably takes 2-3 years of full-time work to become a really good one. I can decode 80% of the Czech in a Czech menu and we figured out how to tip properly. I know the place in the big park in Petrin where you can pick ripe plums off plum trees the public orchard. We found a shop of vintage Czech ephemera and saw a quarter-tone piano built in the 1930s. I need to play a piano soon, or I will wither inside. More later.