I’ll ignore my lack of London updates and jump straight to the meat of it: I was too busy. I was far too busy to reflect, for fear that reflection would render the moment passed. Passed-moments are too bitter-sweet for the London rain. For the sweltering, cloudy sun. Lived-moments, even if they are only try-to-live-now moments are far more bearable.
First and foremost, you have to re-enter society. American society. Sissy and I did this in the Atlanta airport with two margaritas and a basket of chips and salsa. Welcome back! My mother, father and brother were all crying (I’m assuming that my brother and father were; I could tell that my mother was with each exclamation of “my little world travelers!”). We rolled around with our dogs when we got home. Home-home. Not school-home or a-bed-to-lie-in-home. That was nice–to be licked and licked by two furry squirming eighty pound mammals. Welcome back welcome back!
I’m not ready to say goodbye. As much as I want to be welcomed back, I miss that feeling of anonymity that swallowed me whole for four weeks. I’ve been in hiding since my return. I talked and talked to my excited mother about the museums, the plays, the people, the food, the dogs without leashes! I talked at my father and brother who nodded, politely, quietly fingering the rocks I smuggled from Omaha Beach. That they were grateful for those made the whole excursion worth it. My sister and I continue to talk–about what we read, who we were with, who we think we might have become. I talk to Stewart about adventures that I’ve had and ones that I’m sure to have in the future. I talk to my roommates, to people who come over to my house. But I’m afraid to talk outside of this, to be outside of what I know, what I’ve known. Can’t I only be new and different in a new city? Mustn’t I hide here until my next escape, my next journey into the unknown?
I’m afraid because my world is small. I will walk down the street and see someone I know. Or worse–someone I could know. Someone who is probably just like me. Spending their summer Mondays in coffee shops, blogging, because they haven’t been scheduled to work and they want to get out of their bed-to-sleep-in. Someone who only a few weeks ago wanted to see and do and who now is sinking back into being seen and seeming to be. How do you break a cycle? Do you go abroad and then come back different than you were before? Do you change yourself, no matter where you are? Of course, of course you do.
So here’s the challenge. Go abroad, see new and different things. But then–then! Come back. See what you’ve always seen, and say hi. Don’t wish for anonymity–bask in familiarity. Why can’t we be a little bit of everything in little bits and pieces at different places and times?
I used to loathe kids who could study abroad. Those bastards! How did they have the money ( most bitter question)? How did they have the nerve ( based on my own fears)? How did they know where they wanted to go ( based on my forever uncertainty)?** I don’t think you have to go to another continent to conquer some of your fears, because, hey, mine seem to be returning at a rapid pace. I think you have to make yourself really uncomfortable and really excited and really happy and scared and sad and then wholly confident in these emotions. You could do that by meeting the neighbors you’ve never spoken to. You could do that by taking an exercise class by yourself. By going to dinner alone. By reading a big and dense and kinda boring novel.
My sister is forever quoting (paraphrasing) a quote from someone, somewhere: “There’s no such thing as a happy short story.” To prove her wrong I came up with the title of one I just read “Four weeks in London.”
**I should answer my own questions. 1. You don’t “have” the money–you put forth a good effort in saving up from your job and then your parents are gracious and generous and figure out a way to fund the rest because they want your heart and brain to be as big as they can be. 2. I don’t know how much nerve I have, I have my sister to travel with me. We’ve never traveled without our parents, though, so I think we just kind of sucked it up and kept telling ourselves we could legally drink so we could do anything. 3. Sometimes your favorite professor sends out an email saying he’s leading a program in London, the best city in the world. And he has a way with words.