The title of this post is unfortunately not clickbait. Not sure if this is everyone's experience having a solo lunch on the beach, but it was certainly mine today.
After walking home from my Reading the Medieval Text class — where I got to look at both Ellesmere Canterbury Tales facsimiles and an early 17th century Canterbury Tales printing — I had the sudden thought to go to walk to the beach and maybe eat lunch there. As it was 57º and about to rain, I hesitated. But it's always about to rain here, and I had a solid hour before it might start drizzling. (That's the nice part about St Andrews' gloomy weather; for the most part, it's never an awful downpour, just annoying enough to wonder if you should use an umbrella.) I quickly packed a hastily microwaved grilled cheese, a tupperware full of stew, a thermos of tea, and a book, and, armed with a leather jacket, walked the short ten minutes to East Sands.
I usually find the beach to be empty with the exception of a few people and dogs wandering around, and today was no different. I'd brought both a paperback (The Once and Future King by T.H. White) and headphones for my current audiobook (Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono) for different reading options, but I found myself wanting to sit quietly with the sea listening to the shallow waves break against the beach twenty yards in front of me. A variety of dog breeds trotted or ran past me. One cute husky kept sneaking up to stand inquisitively beside me, presumably after my stew.
The wind blew from some easterly direction, bringing with it a heady and comforting saltiness. The St Andrews beaches haven't consistently smelled like "beaches" if you know what I mean. That familiar salt air that carries memories of childhood and sunshine and home. There's really no place I start to feel more myself than staring a great mass of salt water, be it ocean or sea. The brisk, salty air woke me in the same way that my stew warmed me up. I marveled at the woman who spent 10-15 minutes swimming in the frigid water as I shivered on the sand. I'm centered and small, whole and content when on a beach. I was really enjoying the moment.
And then I got whacked in the back of the head by a seagull that landed a few feet away from me and proceeded to glare at me (or more likely my food) greedily. I should note that the seagulls here? Massive. Not scared of humans. Very willing to dive at you for food. The first week I was here, I witnessed a seagull steal an ice cream cone right out of my classmate's hand. Today's seagull didn't succeed in stealing my grilled cheese, but it sure tried.
My brief annoyance became laughter. The seagull offered a dash of reality into my romanticized hour on a dreary beach, a glimpse to myself that everything you see isn't always what it seems. I left the beach just as it started to rain and am now writing from the comfort of my desk at home, staring out our wide window at the drizzle.
Our first week here, the faculty went on and on about imposter syndrome of all topics. "Don't get yourself down," they seemed to incessantly repeat. "You belong here. You wouldn't be here if you didn't." I'll admit, I didn't feel imposter syndrome then, but I've felt it a bit since. The people here are so smart and so curious, and they ask such great questions and connect so easily. I'm coming from four years working full-time, two of which were spent in the constant grind that is freelancing.
I didn't realize how burned out I'd become until very recently. I hadn't had the space to process or think or rest until arriving in Scotland. I'm tired for different reasons here: lugging grocery bags from town, lugging library books home, walking 3-5 miles every day, all sprinkled with a bit of social exhaustion. But I also find myself coming alive again in certain ways. I'm excited to research medieval dream poetry just because I find it interesting. I'm excited to (sort of) learn how to read and transcribe medieval handwriting. I enjoy that I have time to give myself time and space. Time to want to write again. As fun as freelancing can be, I realized towards the end of self-employment how freeing it would be to stop spending my creativity completely on my clients and to use it for myself instead.
I remember distinctly thinking, "Writing can be mine again."
I haven't written anything except these couple of blog posts and notes for class since September 2. I can't tell you how refreshing that's been. But back to why I even mentioned imposter syndrome. A couple weeks ago, I'd applied to write for the St Andrews edition of Her Campus, an online magazine for collegiate women. Part of me didn't want to write at all while I'm here while the practical part of me wanted to continue to stretch myself. Yesterday, I was looking at some of the pieces they'd posted to their Instagram stories, and I couldn't help but think about how interesting they were, how topical and smart.
I've been praying that my burned out curiosity would wake back up again, both in interacting with others and in my writing. I want to operate from a place of curiosity and questioning rather than contentment or disinterest. I want to charge at life the way that stupid seagull went for my head/sandwich.
What's cool is that I'll have the opportunity to do just that. I got an email during class this morning — sometime in between trying to decipher both 13th and 15th century Middle English handwriting — that I've been chosen as a writer for St Andrews' edition of Her Campus this year. I might not be on top of the latest Gen Z TikTok trends, but I do have a hunger to be curious again and to surround myself with curious people. I hope that joining this little Her Campus community will lead to both great friendships and better stories for both life and the page.
Sitting on the beach today made me want to write about the wonderful, salt-filled air, so that's how you ended up with my musings on curiosity. Hopefully the seagull mishap made you laugh!
A few things I'm loving this week:
Homemade London fog lattes. Earl grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. So easy and so yummy.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I'd started reading this classic fantasy book this summer in prep for learning more about Arthurian legends, but it's so smart and funny alongside being a masterful study in tying fiction to mythos. Every time I open it these days, I recognize something that I just read about for class.
Loop Quiet Earplugs. I initially got these for the plane here on the recommendation of a few friends. The Quiet earplugs are so comfortable to sleep in. They block out the crazy wind here entirely while not blocking out my morning alarms (major win).
Studio Ghibli movies. This is really because I fell asleep watching Spirited Away last night, but if you haven't watched any, you should! They're on HBO in the States and Netflix here... bad timing on my part to realize this as I just bought Spirited Away on Apple yesterday haha.