Pie in the sky

Illustration: Lili Szarvas

Do you also have that borderline strange sequence you always picture whenever you feel anxious? For me, this mainly arises whenever I struggle falling asleep after a busy day. I am so overstimulated that it’s as if I had stage fright that scrambled the thoughts in my head so I couldn’t perform the correct procedure of drifting off. A vicious circle of reciting my presentation for tomorrow, wrecking my brain about what to write about in my next column, and speculating whether our generation will still need to worry about pensions or if the climate change catastrophe is going to reach its peak before we even have a chance. I just toss and turn until the spine-tingling sound of birds chirping outside hits me.

But wait; here’s an idea. First, for a change of scenery, I turn upside down on my mattress then I start imagining that I’m a giant: I have enormous hands and fingers so everything I touch feels tiny and malleable. I’m tall and strong, but light as a feather at the same time, making it possible to just skip through a city without causing any damage. I start by the cherry trees of Amelisweerd, wave at the cows behind the fence, and then with a carefree jump my left foot is already next to the vibrant terrace of the Louis Hartlooper Complex. Another few steps along the crooked streets of Utrecht and I land in the pond of Wilhelmina Park and embrace the shouts of people warning each other about the Handhaving waiting behind the bushes.

When I’m a giant I can lift people if they’re cold and warm them up by placing them in my pocket. Or help them bring supper to their grandpa who lives across town and refuses to cook. Or clean the litter from the streets with one big exhale into my never-ending bag. But most importantly, when I’m a giant, I can go anywhere within the course of minutes. I wouldn’t have to make significant decisions about where to be and who to be with. I wouldn’t have to choose between staying put to try make the most of the apparently best years of my adult, independent life and going home to spend as much time with my grandparents as I still can. I wouldn’t have to figure out whether to prioritize potential career/relationship/academic/hook-up perspectives or return to witness my little sister grow into a teenager, my brother into a dedicated casual dater, or my parents exploring their wonderful 50+ selves. If I were a giant, I wouldn’t have to pick.

When I started my column last year, I wrote my first piece about where home was in a pandemic. I mentioned us international students’ options looking black and white, as if we were facing our decisions through tube-shaped goggles that only allow for a limited vision. It’s one year later and even though I still feel similar, I am eternally grateful for all I’d been through: all the ups and downs and nostalgic romance.

Now it’s 6:00 am and I'm still laying awake upside down in my bed, but my body isn’t in distress anymore. I feel some sort of bittersweet, but freeing closure because being a giant for a while enlightened me about how life is not easy, but we make it harder. In a life where you have someone to love you, wherever they are, there are no fatal decisions and it’s not worth contemplating those deeply feared ‘what if’s” and comparing what it could have been if you stayed somewhere else. Everything moves, life comes at us in waves and whichever option you decide to settle on, just make sure to bear responsibility for the time you take up in the space you occupy. Explore what it costs you to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even to succeed. It sounds like pie in the sky, but who knows? Maybe one day you will wake up a big, friendly giant and skip through cities, rivers, and cherry trees.

This is Lili's last piece as campus columnist, but you can continue to follow her on her website, Charlie's Girl.