Thursday, April 22, 2010
If home is where the heart is, then I belong everywhere.
Right now, I'm trying to work out the finer points of wrangling a slightly earlier ticket home from StudentUniverse (fairly unsuccessfully, I might add...every agent I've talked to has had a different story about how much it's going to cost, and when I went to actually change, their computers were down and they couldn't make any changes. Oy.), in order to be home in time to attend a wedding. When this change finally and finally goes through, that means I'll have one month and some change from this exact point in time before I'm boarding another overseas flight and heading west to the States, with no English return date in sight.
I can't wrap my head around the fact that that means I've been here for three months. I arrived here on 25 January, and here it is, 22 April. Almost three-quarters of my time here has already passed. I've seen and done and learned so much, but there's so much that I wish I could have done that I know I won't get to do before I leave. It simultaneously feels like I just arrived (in full discombobulated and jet-lagged glory) a week ago and like I've been here for years. Some things haven't changed; I'm still disgruntled at the exchange rate, pubs with free wifi are still my favorite places to plop down and do homework, and my curious accent is sometimes still a novelty. But when I arrived, it was cold and snowy and everything was unfamiliar; now, spring is doing its best to fully arrive, and I've met many good friends and settled into a comfortable routine that will soon be upset by final exams and semester's-end essays, as well as the preparations for my departure.
(York Minster sanctuary at night)
It's starting to get to the point where I miss my family and friends and everything about home that's so familiar (like root beer and driving on the right, among other things). At the same time, though, I'm almost appalled by my willingness to go home and leave this place with its own distinct familiarity, and am deliberately trying to resist beginning a day-by-day countdown, knowing that once it ticks down to 0 I don't know when (or if) I'll ever have the chance to come back. As much as I desperately want to stay and to hang on to my last remaining shreds of time here, I'm ready to go home; as much as I desperately want to see my family again, and hang out with my home friends, and get/start a summer job, I'd love to stay. It's an interesting dichotomy of the anticipation to leave and the dread of it.
I've jokingly said before, "This is exactly why I need to learn to teleport." But seriously, though, if I was able to bend location and distance to my will, I wouldn't have this problem. I could wake up one morning, say, "I feel like being in York today," and be there before lunchtime. Unfortunately, this is not how travel works. I guess getting there (and, in my case, staying there) really is half the fun. If I was able to just blink my eyes and end up somewhere, then the fact that I was 3,000 miles away for four months of my life and for one semester of the eight in my college career wouldn't really mean as much...and the fact that I may very well spend the rest of my life 3,000 miles away from where I'm sitting as I type this wouldn't be quite so heart-wrenching. I'm comforted by the fact that I definitely made the right decision by coming here in being so happy and so resistant to leaving, but it's going to be tough knowing that a place I've so grown to love is going to be so hard to come back to, and even if I do, it will never be quite the same.
(The view from my window)
On Tuesday, I went to visit Katie, a longtime family friend who currently lives with her husband in Harrogate. After trading stories of various travel experiences, she talked about a friend who had come over to visit her and become enthralled by traveling. "I told her, 'I knew it! You caught the travel bug!' Once you catch the bug, you've got it for good," she said. It's so true. I don't think I'll really be able to just stay in once place ever again. I'm going to have to travel and see new things, whether I'm going across the state, across the country, or across the ocean. At the risk of being torn between staying and leaving just like I am now, at the risk of meeting awesome new people who will inevitably live too far away to see regularly (or ever again), at the risk of falling in love with something just to be relegated to loving it from a distance, I have to be able to travel. I have to be able to look back at pictures and memories and say, "Wow...what a ride." I've become much too mobile to ever be content with being stationary again.
This doesn't mean I don't love having somewhere comfortable and familiar to come home to. This doesn't mean I won't need a break from all this adventure every now and then. This doesn't mean I'll become so mobile I'll become a blur and forget the simple joys in just being still. But this does mean that I'm aware of how big the world is and how small the patches of it that I've come to love...and how little the time I have to love these patches of world while I still can.
(The River Ouse)
I have one more month to sip my English tea, traipse through the Minster, do homework in The Habit, read by the river Ouse, window-shop my way down Stonegate, and finish my time at York St. John University. It's comforting and discomforting at the same time...but home is calling, and in one month's time, I'll be answering by way of baggage claims, currency exchanges, and U.S. Customs. And somehow, by the time that month passes and I'm back on American soil, I think I'll be ready to be home.