Friday, June 10, 2011

Libre: A Rant.

parce que parfois on se rende compte qu'on ne peut pas tout faire...que personne n'est parfait, même si on essaie sans cesse. on vit et on apprend, et on trouve enfin que ça, c'est assez.

It's a Friday afternoon, the end of a hectic week of school. On Monday, the Rhétos at l'Athénée Royal d'Arlon started exams. My Belgian classmates have been studying like crazy for the past few weeks. And I, in my pointless attempt to be a Belgian, tried to join them. The thing is, at the same time, I was trying to be the exchange student that I am, who travels and discovers Belgium in limited spare time. At school, I'm considered "une étudiante libre" -- a free student. But, studying like the Belgians, I hardly felt free. I had a hard time choosing between traveling and studying. I wanted to travel, but I felt obligated to study, so I tried to do both, with the result of halfheartedly doing each of them. I must admit I regretted only halfheartedly studying during my French exam on Monday morning, but I certainly learned from it. This was an oral exam -- I had two questions, 15 minutes to prepare my answers, and then 15 more minutes to respond. I wasn't able to answer the questions, which wasn't surprising, considering I could never answer example exam questions in class. But somehow, this seemed so much worse during the exam itself. I wasn't prepared at all, and I felt so terrible about it. And yet, before I left, my French teacher reminded me of something -- that I can't do everything, that I was the one who had made a choice. At the time, I didn't really feel like I had chosen anything -- it was AFS who said I had to take the exam. But, thinking about it later, I realized I really had made a choice. Many, in fact. I was the one who decided to become an exchange student, the best decision of my life. To do this, I chose to work like a crazy person all through high school, chose to apply to colleges I never got to visit, and chose to Skype my own high school graduation rather than attending in person. I chose to stop speaking English, chose to skip a few days of school for my AFS project, and chose to leave on weekends. Right now it's still a little hard to take in. It's not easy for me to consciously decide to not do things I should, especially school work. All my life I've listened to people speak about the importance of hard work and motivation. And while I agree that both are important -- without them I wouldn't be here -- I can't help but thinking that sometimes I'm too serious about them. When I look back on this later, I think I'm going to prefer memories of wading in the North Sea, Liège at Christmastime, absinthe, and sitting in the Grand-Place in Brussels after midnight than weekends of studying for exams that don't even count for anything. And so, when I failed my math exam today, I wasn't upset and I didn't regret that I didn't study enough. For once, I didn't care that I failed. The exam doesn't count for anything anyway. And somehow, failing made me feel very free. I think I may finally be able to embrace who I am, perhaps much later than I should have. But voilà, here I am. Mary Lawrence, exchange student, fluent in French, who is learning to be independent. Mary Lawrence, who will not walk at her own graduation because she has something that is so much better, who is nervous for losing this freedom when she leaves Europe. Mary Lawrence, who looks up at Brussels Town Hall, lit up in the midnight sky, and feels at home, more free than ever.

d'une façon, je n'ai jamais senti aussi libre...

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