Tomorrow’s the day, I’m headed back to the USA! I’ve thought of this day and drafted this post before, but it feels strange that it’s suddenly arrived. Slow and steady, then all at once. The lovely Annie over at LoveLaughRun seemed to have read my mind the other day when she said that it’s easy to plan a post as you run with your thoughts, but sitting at the computer and actually getting the words down sometimes leaves you stuck. On my runs around the city, I’ve imagined what I will tell you as I say goodbye.
I want to tell you about the breeze that rustles the leaves of the trees that shade the sidewalk as I run in the evening, or the bump of reggaeton as a car rolls down the street. I want you to hear the shouts of Helado! Helado! | Ice cream! Ice cream! when you step on the crowded metro and get out of the sun. I want you to be able to stand and stare at the Andes on a clear day, your view framed by tall palm trees dotted with bright green birds. I wish you could meet the people here that I know, as well as the ones I have yet to meet.
In less than 36 hours, I will be touching down on U.S. soil with a Chilean visa set to expire and all of my things back in one place. I will no longer worry about whether my documents are all in order, have to muster a little extra brainpower to order at a cafe, or think about the exchange rate from U.S. Dollars to Chilean Pesos. I will be able to overhear conversation without focusing. I’ll be able to speak freely and articulately, and will once again drive and get back to cooking. I can plug my laptop in without an adapter, and will be online 24/7 when my phone reconnects to 3G service. Showers will be hot, the water will always run, and windows will be closed tightly because there’s climate control in every building.
Everyone’s lives in the U.S. didn’t stop just because I was away, and, while I tried my best to keep in touch while I was gone, I missed moments that I will never know. I’m preparing for some reverse culture shock. I feel like I’m about to jump into a marathon when I’ve been standing still: life is moving fast and I’m not yet running. But, as with all things, poco a poco|little by little I’ll find myself back in a daily routine. I’ll pick up the pace of my life again and jump back into classes and work. I am, however, forever changed. What I want to continue with and bring back with me is patience, understanding, and being thoughtful. I have a new found appreciation for the kindness of strangers, and for valuing the time you spend with others. Above all, I’ve learned to be humbled by my experiences.
When I was younger, I thought I had everything under control. I knew what I needed to know, and knew better than anyone else. I had life wrapped around my finger and was ready for anything. I was driven but naive. As a result, I thought that everything would always go as I planned: I would go to college, relax during the summers, study abroad, graduate with honors, work, get married, have kids, and work some more. I would travel by way of nicely planned trips in my allotted few weeks of vacation, and have every weekend to relax throughout the year. Why were adults so stressed anyways? Plans could solve anything, of course! However, as I have come to find out as I’ve spent more time outside of my comfortable limits, even the best laid plans can fall flat, but things have a way of working themselves out. As my mom has always said, “Everything happens for a reason.” My high school self was frequently a pain in my family’s ass, to put it bluntly and sum it up. (Middle school should probably be included in that too.) To my mom and dad, thank you for guiding me through it, and also for giving me the space to let me figure things out on my own. I love you. I was a planner to a fault.
Being here in Chile, and in college in general, has helped me to calm down. I am still a planner, but I am learning to make the most of the things I cannot change, and to stay driven to improve the things that I can. Some of the best things cannot be completely planned. I have learned to say no if something isn’t for me, as well as express the things I love and prefer. I have learned to listen, and continue to realize that there are infinite ways to live a life, and to do so successfully. My life has taken on new form from my original, teenage, plan, and I couldn’t be happier or more pleased.
I think I had been doing some things wrong. I was planning my life and sometimes forgot to live it. Being here, I feel like I’m living a life that has surpassed some of my wildest dreams, while redefining others. I am happy and forward thinking, striving to be better, but also content with what I have and where I’m at in this moment. TH, you’ve helped me a lot with this too, thank you, and I love you more than I can ever say.
I would like to say that I have accomplished finding a balance in life, but the truth is that it’s a process, not an end result. And the balance is always changing. Throughout both the planning of this trip and my six months here, I’ve been knocked down every so often: a few occasions spent crying on the street, and wandering, lost. But I’ve also had triumphs and have felt truly proud of myself for the first time I can remember. I made it here, was resourceful enough to solve problems in another language, and seized the day. I woke up, excited, every single morning.
As I leave you with one last post, I want to address you, the one who’s been reading about my time here. Whether you’ve been reading since before my departure in September 2014, or you’re finding my blog after my return home in March 2015, and everyone who falls in between, thank you. You’re always welcome to contact me, whether it’s tomorrow or years down the road. Thank you, also, to everyone who took the time to reach out and give me feedback on this space. I’ve loved sharing my time here with you, and hope you’ve enjoyed it too. It’s been an experience that I will not soon forget. One final time, I’m so appreciative of all of your love and support! Posting is something that I wasn’t sure if I could commit to, but it is something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe, someday, I’ll come back to blogging with another story to tell…
Until we meet again.