Existentialism in Copenhagen | My Family Travels

The summer before my junior year, I found myself in Denmark. My trip was planned for me: I was to fly to Copenhagen by myself to visit my father who had been there for nearly a year, teaching at the university.

Despite this trip being spontaneously planned, I never miss an opportunity to travel. This became the first time I flew by myself, and with me I carried onto the plane my iPod, a journal, and a book of poems I found around the house. It was called Through a Gate of Trees by Susan Jackson, but I had no intention of reading it. I carried a book around with me everywhere simply out of habit and the book was simply last resort for any boredom that struck during my entire trip. Boredom hit hard on the plane when I was so fortunately placed between to middle aged men. With headphones over my ears, I pulled on Susan Jackson’s collection and skimmed over poems. My eyes landed on one poem called “The Day She Gets Her License,” basically about the day a teenage girl got her license. The poem concludes like this: “she knows / she’s beautiful / she will always be beautiful.” My existential teenage angst attracted me to this line, though I had never previously considered my appearance seriously. Suddenly, however, with this poem and my journey through Copenhagen, a feeling of uneasiness awakened.

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

Although we lived in a  the beautiful New Haven harbor of Copenhagen, I remember best being lost walking down Strøget, the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe. I never lost my way home, but it was an easy feat to become blissfully and mindlessly lost amongst the endless numbers of people surrounding me. I found myself trying to capture in my memory all the buildings and all the faces. When I failed to do that, I began wishing I were as in tune with the world as the Europeans rushing to everywhere were. I continuously saw beautiful people, and all I could do was throw envious glares at that woman in heels with large sunglasses hiding her face. Other than being among gorgeous, confident women, there was also something about walking along beautiful, antiquated buildings and down cobblestoned streets that intensified my desire to belong among Danish people I knew nothing about. However, an unspoken truth seemed to float in the air: beauty was a prerequisite to belonging. I am no exception to every platonic teenage girl out there who simply wishes to be beautiful, as the poem had proven. If my fifteen year old mind knew anything about beauty, it was simply the fact that beauty was a requirement for belonging.

Although indeed a depressing notion, it dissipated after being in Denmark for two more weeks. I never lost my wonder for beautiful Copenhagen, but I suddenly realized I would have felt the same way if I went to Spain or France. At that time, I felt like belonging was equivalent to being loved, and everywhere I went, I wanted to be loved. I still do, but I no longer believe beauty is necessary for love; instead, I am determined to find the place that will love my flaws. There, I know I can “always be beautiful.” Perhaps Copenhagen and a simple poem thrust me through the worst part of the incessant existential crisis of my teenage years. In fact, I have discovered that I am in love with my displacement. I can be completely content with being absent from the world and even forever filled with wanderlust. 

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