I held African money in my hands tonight for the first time in months… and I felt the weight of time, of experience, of change in my hands. In those few seconds my heart flashed back over my life in the past eight months: from saying goodbye to my Lincoln friends, to driving to Georgia, to heading to LA – then DC – scrambling for my Visa and passport, to saying goodbye to my Georgia friends, to packing when i should have been arriving at the airport, to getting my first boarding pass that said “world traveler,” to saying goodbye to my family, to landing in London – seeing Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to landing in South Africa (so tired and weary I could barely stand), to driving through Cape Town, seeing the many, many black South Africans on the highways – feeling the racial tension for the first time, to seeing the vineyards, the mountains of Stellenbosch for the first time, to going on a safari – seeing my first giraffe and lion and elephant, to seeing Swaziland, backpacking in Cape Town and Mozambique, to making and then saying goodbye to my friends in South Africa, to not sleeping for 50some hours and finally making it to New York for the first time, to seeing Melanie in New York City, to exploring and backpacking and seeing the Bodies Exhibit and my first Broadway show, to seeing Times Square and meeting Melanie’s roommates in Boston, to making it back to Georgia and my family and friends, to roadtripping, making it to Los Angeles, to this summer, to living with Matt in a single apartment, to my random, amazing job working on an independent film, to watching years of gymnastics in weeks and to now – yesterday, today and tomorrow – saying goodbye… and heading back to Lincoln.
Tomorrow at 4:30pm I’ll board a flight from California to Nebraska… and at 9:30pm, central time (the first time my voicemail on my phone will sound correct in so long), I’ll land in Omaha, my life coming full circle after the craziest, most intense and relxing, most unbelievable, life-changing 8 months of my life. Ellie and Vanessa will be there to greet me, and the emotion that shoots through my heart at even thinking about that moment – what it will be like to see them, the people that I have lived with, spoken to, cried to and done college with for the past four years, after eight months of complete and total physical separation, may well be indescribable.
I have no doubts or hesitations when I say that these past eight months have changed my life. They’ve challenged me, taught me lessons, given me mountains of new life experience and endless fodder for my writing. At the end of them, tonight at 2:38am as I’m writing this and looking at my disastrous apartment, my unpacked bags and clothes strewn on the floor, I’m proud to say that at the same time that I’m a changed person, I’m a changed person who is still fully and thoroughly, 100% still me.
What do I regret from these 8 months? I never used to believe in regret. It was Jacob’s and my motto, our solemn oath to each other, and to life I think, that we refused to believe in it or give into it, that we pledged to own our mistakes and our accomplishments, learn from them both, and at the end of the day, be satisifed with the knowledge that, good or bad, life happens for a reason.
I still believe in those statements. I still hold them dear to my heart, but I now see “regret” as a bigger word, full of bigger meaning, less black and white, less negative, and more all-encompassing. Regret, in itself, holds a promise of hope and change – it allows us to give advice, to tell others what they could achieve, can achieve, might want to strive for, that we missed out on. And for me – I have some of those. I wish I had made more African friends – not friends in Africa (I did well with that) but African friends. South African friends. I wish I had made more friends out here in Los Angeles. Oh, and I wish I had gone first on that 18 meter kloof, before the girl got hurt. Sounds silly, but that’s something I’ll remember for, well, maybe ever. I’ll remember the fear that overtook me, and I’ll remember taking a step back and letting someone else go before me, trying to get myself together. And mostly, I’ll remember the feeling of knowing that I could have done it, should have done it but let fear take the place of spontaneity and living for everything life has to offer.
I think that might be it, though. I Feel like I’ve done pretty well in these last 8 months doing exactly what i set out to do. I’ve lived, and I’ve lived hard and I’ve lived most every second to its max.
What am I proud of from these last 8 months? I think maybe … most everything. I’m so deeply proud that I went to Africa. I’m so proud that I made the choice to move to LA for the summer without a job or place ot live lined up. I’m proud that I took chances. I’m proud that I traveled ‘alone’ in Mozambique (I’ll never consider it truly alone after the friends I made along the way). I get a lot from a lot of people that they’re so impressed, almost inspired by the fact that I seem to be able to pick up and leave at any point, from any place. I get from a lot of other people that they think that means I’m not really ever that close to anyone, because if I were, I wouldn’t be able to leave so easily, at will. I don’t think either side is really right or, rather, really speaks to what I feel. I cry every time I leave somewhere. I fight my intense longing to be with those I already know and love every time I step on a new place, headed to a new place. I cry every single time I leave Georgia and have to say goodbye to my mom. I cry every time I leave everywhere, because I feel like I’m leaving a piece of me there. But I refuse to stop going. I can’t. It’s not within me. No matter how hard it is when I leave somewhere, the joy of meeting the people I meet when I arrive somewhere and of experiencing a new place, new culture, it drives me forward. Sometimes I do get overwhelmed. Tonight as i said goodbye to newfound friends out here, I couldn’t help but think that maybe it’s getting old – all the asying goodbye that I do. Right now, I have pieces of my heart in what sometimes feels like too many places – Georgia, Nebraska, Africa, camp, Los Angeles – but then I have to remind myself that while sometimes it hurts to miss so many people in so many places in this country, on this earth – it feels so good to reconnect with them again, and it keeps my drive and desire to keep going alive becuaes I never know who will touch me next.
I feel like I have so much to say tonight (obviously… cause this is really freaking long)… and so much that I haven’t talked about all summer. Where did this summer go?
My job just got more amazing as the summer went on. I got promoted from an intern to a project manager, I think was our title. It came with a nice pay raise, which was awesome too. But to know that I was doing good work – that felt great.
I’m not sure that I really made friends out here this summer that I’ll have for years to come, but I do feel like I put some roots down. I feel like there are a few people that I really wish I had had longer to get to know because I feel like we could have been good friends. But I think the biggest lesson I leanred this summer… is that I don’t always have to be around people. Matt helped me really learn that I can be content and entertain myself sitting right here in my apartment.
As with men – well… my absolute, unwavering, stubborn objection to being in a relationship, to being tied down to someone, something, at 22 years old, isn’t going to change anytime soon. My love and passion and just zeal for live wins every time, and you now – I think even more than that, this summer I’ve realized that my friends… I’m passionate about them, and I think at this point in my life, no matter how old or boring it may make me sound, I would rather be having a cocktail or two with a girlfriend or guy friend and laughing, talking about everything and nothing, than out with someone that I’m frankly not going to care about in a few weeks time. I’ve realized I don’t have time, or rather, don’t want to make time, for that. I want to be around people that make me infinitely happy and joyous, and those people are my friends. I’m not anti-dating or meeting people (i’m very pro-having fun), and I’m sure that I will meet someone at some point that will change my mind about relationships and giving up my complete autonomy, but until then – I’ll take my friends.
In the past 8 motnhs, I’ve also both… ‘calmed down’ and become more ‘wild,’ I think – almost simultaneously. I think more of what it is is that I’ve become much more settled in who I am and what I stand for – I feel less of a need now to blurt it out, scream it and shout it from the rooftops, make sure that people know that I’m ME. I feel now like… like I can just bask in who I am and enjoy it, instead of making sure everyone knows it. With feeling more comfortable in my own sense of self, I’m also, honestly, just ready to take this last semester and just hit it hard and hit it right. Ellie and I are going to make a list of all teh things we want to do before we leave Lincoln, put it up in our apartment and make it our goal to cross them all off before the end of the semester. I’m looking forward to it.
I think I’ve reached the end of my rambling. These past 8 months have been incredible, and I don’t think in a million years I could have really thought or assumed (I definitely could have imagined them) they could actually happen. My life did change, and it feels great to say that I made it change. My life is different becuase of Africa and because of New York, Georgia and Los Angeles.
Tomorrow when I get back into Nebraska, it’s going to feel surreal and maybe even unreal. I’ve been gone for so long I wonder if it’ll really ever feel real again. But really – I have no doubt that when I step foot back in Lincoln, I won’t be able to stop smiling. I’ll hop down O Street, eat at every restaurant I’ve missed for so many months now and, mostly, catch up wtih friends whose beautiful faces I haven’t seen in 8 months.
Coming home feels great, and I’m so privileged to have so many places to come home to.