Study abroad has given me a lot of time to really reflect on my place in life, caught in between being a child and an adult, trying to live like both. It’s like Britney once said, “I’m not a boy, not yet a man.” Well, she could have said it like that, but she’s a girl… Anyways, no matter what’s going on here, whether I feel lonely or am having the time of my life, I always come back to one thing I know about my life – I’m incredibly lucky.
Back in the days of writing college essays, senior year, I wrote what I thought was a really striking and creative line while applying for a scholarship that I didn’t receive. I called myself a “reckless opportunist.” I don’t think I really understood the limitations of my opportunities back then – I mean hey, I hadn’t even been to college. The longest I’d ever been away from home was three weeks, and it was just one state away. A “reckless opportunist” was something I wanted to be but hadn’t quite achieved.
Today, at 20, I can say that I’ve now had some pretty incredible opportunities. Going to a diverse, open, and challenging school just 30 minutes outside of Chicago and studying abroad in England the two biggest opportunities I’ve had. And I think I’ve recklessly taken advantage of them, especially this study abroad experience, and soaked up each ounce of time and every moment. And for that, I’m fucking lucky. I’ve gotten to do things I’ve literally dreamed about. Like actually in my sleep. Although it’s been different than I could have imagined and harder than I thought it would be, it’s been a blast.
All this aside, I sometimes feel like because of these opportunities, I’m floating in and out of peoples’ lives, trying to connect fragmented moments with friends with texts and Skype and Facebook. It’s like I’m a collector of friends, a collector of experiences. I have friends all over the world now, which is so eye-opening, but there’s always a fleeting feeling that I know I have to leave them. A feeling I’ve felt for the last three years, leaving home for Northwestern, Northwestern for home, both for England. But every one of these connections I hold dear, and no matter whether or not I ever see some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met again, no matter where they’re from or how long I’ve spent with them, each person adds a little something to me that makes me more and more who I am supposed to be.
And as hard as it is to be here and know that I have to pick up my bags and leave, this is the time for that. I’ve learned from experience that it’s possible to keep up with those that matter to you. For me, it would have been impossible to live the kind of life I’ve been so privileged to live without learning that skill, and without learning that there’s just as much to be found in transience and change as there is in stability. I have the rest of my life to be stable, to settle down.
So for now, I get to live in a dream. When I was in Amsterdam, it felt like it was my dream away from the reality of England. England is like the dream of my reality of student life at NU, which in turn is like a dream from home in Arkansas, which is a dream from all of these other places when I’m away. And the best part about it is that this dream time, this exquisite time where I can explore myself, the world and its inhabitants, is that it’s strengthening me and teaching me how to live in the approaching reality of adult life. Living in happiness, which I am doing now and always strive to do (sometimes, like everyone, unsuccessfully), makes you realize that it’s always there, waiting for you when you don’t have it and so obviously there when you do.
I’m happy and I’m lucky.