New hats, new beginnings

By Fall 2011 Foreign Correspondent, Charlotte O’Malley
Charlotte O’Malley is a senior majoring in online journalism and traveling to Odense, Denmark for four months.

My fall break — or “potato holidays” as the Danes call it — has come and gone almost without a hitch. A friend and I traveled from Copenhagen to Poland, Poland to Berlin, Berlin to Leipzig and Leipzig to Brussels within an 11 day period without missing a flight, train connection, losing phones or wallets, or having anything stolen. There was only one casualty: my favorite and only hat, a faux fur hat much like a ushanka, but slightly more feminine and without ear flaps.

While recognizing how many other things I could have lost that would have put a severe kink in my travels, I was still upset. Not only was this hat a friend to many due to it’s soft texture, but it was a symbol of sorts—something that I had found in an Athens store, the only one of its kind for sale, and unlike any other hats I’d seen of a similar style. The reality of not being able to replace it got to me, but what bothered me the most what how much losing it really bothered me.

No one wants to think of themselves as materialistic, but I started to feel as such, and it upset me how much losing this hat crossed my mind while I walked around Krakow, seeing things that should have monopolized my attention. Once I examined my feelings more, I realized I was analogizing this  `hat to my entire college experience that will soon be coming to a close.  A classic case of transference: the loss of my hat, from Athens, was something that the loss of I clung to, much like I am clinging to the last months of my college career before I lose them.  Like my hat, my college experience has been unlike any other student’s experience, unique to me, shaped and molded by my own personal experience. It cannot be replaced, only commemorated, by photos, papers and objects that manifested from my life in Athens.

I have always been a sentimental person, and I have always been resistant to change. They both come easily to me, and while the first is a crutch that could be legitimized, the latter is a hindrance and weakness without a doubt. College is all about growing and challenging yourself, right? I thought I was combating this part of myself by leaving the United States, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I adjusted easily to the change of living in a different country. So why does the end of my student career at Ohio University still evoke so many feelings of doubt?

Change is scary for me, even when it comes to something like a new hat, but it turns out I couldn’t have chosen a better location to lose it than in Poland. I found a new hat at a market, not fur throughout, but a classic Soviet-style ushanka made with brown leather and fur, with ear flaps tied at the top by a leather bow. I was uncertain when wearing it at first. It wasn’t as comfortable as my old hat, it was bulkier, it wasn’t as soft, and I hadn’t worn it in yet. But as my trip progressed, it began to grow on me more. I liked the option of having flaps to cover my ears on cold days, and it started to feel more and more like it was “me”. I imagine that I will feel similarly about my life after graduation. Uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, until the unfamiliar starts to becomes my norm, and just like after my first year at Ohio University, I won’t want to imagine it any differently.

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