For the past six months, I’ve heard a steady stream of advice regarding this next semester abroad: stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, take pictures, carry cash, honestly I could dedicate this entire post to all of the tips, tricks, recommendations, and well wishes that have been pouring in from all sides since January. But as my departing flight looms closer, the words that ring loudest in my mind are “You will be a different person when you return”. A different person. Someone else.
Now this shouldn’t be something that daunts me so. I know I’ll be a different person. I was a different person two years ago than I am now. Heck I’m a different person now than I was two weeks ago. It’s in our nature to change and grow; we’re constantly shifting and morphing and wearing a hundred different choices and dreams and that ever changing tapestry of self and soul is I think one of the most beautiful parts of being human. So why am I suddenly shy of this new Emily who awaits me on the other side of the next four months?
Perhaps because I know she’s coming. So often we notice change in our rearview mirrors. We look back and we say “Goodness I never would have done this a year ago” or “When did this thing that I struggle with suddenly become easy?”. And once we identify this change, we can proudly present it to those around us and pin it to our refrigerator with confidence in this new person we’ve become. But how often do we look at the change in ourselves that is to come? When do we approach change with our gaze fixed upon it? It’s an odd thing to see change not in the mirrors but in the windshield. To be speeding towards it too fast to find answers to your questions, but not too fast to ask them.
Will she like me? Will I like her? Will she be a good student? Will she get along with her classmates and her professors? Will she fit in when she comes home?
And the hard and scary truth of the matter is that I have no way of answering these questions right now. The only way out is through and here I am hovering at the doorway, equal parts dreading and welcoming what’s to come. But it doesn’t really matter what I’m feeling, because the days continue their relentless march forward, and in a few weeks the pin gets pulled and the grenade launches.
And so here I am, the before picture: aware that who I am, as I exist in this moment, is fleeting. The next time I write, I may not be so aware. I may be in the midst of the change and unable to see it. But for now, I see it coming. I’m frightened, and I see no use in pretending not to be, but I’m also excited.
A new friend, after all, is a new adventure.