I remember when I used to think I didn’t dream. It’s not that I didn’t dream, it’s just that I didn’t remember them because everyone dreams. Now I remember them, but it’s only splinters. Pieces that have broken off from the dream to imbed themselves in my memory, and like splinters are painful; it is often the painful part of my dreams that stay with me. I wake up and I think something terrible has happened that makes me have to get another HIV test. Maybe the paper was wrong again, but this time I am out of time. I can’t get another test and a new certificate. My visa haunts me in my sleep, it sits on the edge of my happiness and claws its way into my dreams. Dreams? No. These are not dreams anymore, they are nightmares.

HIV tests aren’t particularly scary. You have some blood drawn and the blood goes to the lab. The results are given back to you very quickly. One day, two days, three days if it takes a long time, and then you can hand your certificate to the lady at the visa center, you smile and you walk away because everything is finished. You have no more paperwork that is your responsibility. It’s just the waiting. The waiting is the worst. Now that you have carried that responsibility with you for months it is hard to let it go, but you have to. You have to put your trust, like another sheet, inside that stack of documents as you hand them over.

If it did not cost so much I would have processed my visa in five days just so I could avoid the waiting. But now, all I can do is find distractions. What can I do to distract myself now, I wonder. Each new day means I need a new set of distractions, but each new night I am free to think, to worry, and the most dangerous, “what if…” I lay in bed awake for a while and think, and then I fall asleep still thinking. That’s when the nightmares come. There are no more distractions while I am sleeping, and I have to let the worry come that I keep at bay during the day. It comes and usually I don’t remember, but sometimes a piece gets stuck. A splinter. The fear.

People often say, “You must be having the time of your life,” and “You must be so excited to go to St. Petersburg,” but, no I am not. All I can do is wait. I don’t live in the future and I don’t live in the past, but dwell in the present. Presently I am so grateful and happy to be where I am, but on the other side I am waiting. These people, they don’t understand that I have been working for this and waiting for this, and I am sick. I am not sick of waiting, I am sick with waiting, and now that sickness is in my dreams. They are called nightmares.

My friend once told someone I had just been introduced to, “She’s obsessed with Russia.” I knew then that my friend didn’t know me as well as she should.

When you spend so much time and energy working for one goal, when you throw yourself into everything you need to do to reach that point, that goal consumes you. It takes your time and it takes your mind. There are endless applications for scholarships, for programs, to study abroad, and you are always thinking about them. There are meetings with professors, with the Dean, with the people who run the study abroad office, with the people running the program, and you are always worrying about them. There are the complaints, the tears, smiles, feelings of being crushed and uplifted, and they are always with you.

I did not choose an easy path for myself, but I knew what I wanted to do. I remember still, walking into the study abroad office at my school. One of the women who runs the office was telling me about the study abroad website and how to apply. I don’t need this, I thought, applications are usually self-explanatory and straightforward, so why am I here.  I soon found out. “Where do you want to go?” she asked me kindly. Russia, of course Russia, that’s where I have been planning to go for years. She asked what semester I wanted to go. I was confused. Isn’t there an option to study abroad for the whole year? Not in the program to Russia. That echoes in my head, not in the program to Russia. I had to find a way to fulfill my dream of studying abroad for a year, even if it wasn’t part of the school’s typical policy. I had to. How many meetings, conversations, essays, letters of recommendation, professors, how many did it take? I don’t know because I couldn’t count. I spent so much time working on it, that now I talk about it, I think about it, I dream about it, and right now I don’t know how not to. Then someone who I thought new me, called me obsessed.

Think before you use this word please, it does not have good connotations. It is a word that young teenagers use when they are obsessed with a certain band, or obsessed with doing their hair. They use it until they realize what it really means.

This may make me sound like a sad person, or someone who is so worried that they have forgotten how to be happy, but I assure I am not either of those. I am generally a happy person, and I love to live in the present, but right now I am also a waiting person.