It has now been almost 4 months since I’ve left Paris. And an entire year since I first began my semester in Madagascar. Facts that are literally incomprehensible to me now as I think back to these places and the freshness of their memories. I think I’m finally starting to truly grasp the whole concept of time moving faster at an accelerated pace as you get older thing. I also haven’t written a post in several months. There had been several occasions where I had begun a post-Paris one and somehow just failed to find the drive and reason really to finish it. The main motivation, in fact, was simply the memory of my post-Madagascar experience and the feeling that I should be feeling at least some sort of reverse-culture shock after Paris, nowhere near equivalent to my Madagascar one of course, but deserving of a blog post at the very least. I loved every aspect of Paris as a city and all the wonderful experiences I had/people I met there, and yet somehow, as much as my brain was able to recognize this fact and as much as I wanted to feel something more as a result of it, these thoughts essentially remained as simply that: thoughts. It was more so that I wanted to feel more sad, more reminiscent, more emotionally affected by the return home than I actually did. So much so, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I felt more sadness and disappointment by the fact that I didn’t feel anything after leaving Paris than by the act of leaving itself. My mind and heart just refused to converge.
But anyways, now, for whatever reason, I finally feel enough “emotion” to supply me with the motivation to write a post. It is in part related to Paris, but really, it has more to do with just overall change in general. (so I apologize to those who are reading this only to hear something about Paris or some other exciting country). I’ve realized that this whole entire year, really, has essentially been a quest for change and subsequently, a continuous process of me trying to assess my own level of change along the way. Both study abroad and college are constantly framed as some of the most life-changing periods in a person’s life. You will change. No matter who you are or what expectations you have, you will. There is no question about it. This is the general attitude that I have come across at least prior to undergoing these experiences – whether it was from college counselors, professors, recent graduates, or really anyone else who had gone through them. So, naturally, I felt somewhat inclined to measure my own experiences against such standards, constantly wondering, “So have I changed yet? According to what everyone says, I should be changed by now. Sure I’ve experienced a lot of new things, but does that mean I’ve changed as a person? And if there are some things different about my attitudes now, when are they different enough to be considered change?”
I still don’t really have an answer to these questions, and actually, don’t even really think they matter in the grand scope of things, but in any case, have without a doubt come to a certain point in my life where I can make the conclusion that I am no longer the person that I was at the beginning of college. Whether or not I’ve “changed” as a person, there is absolutely no way I can discount the amount that has happened between then and now to pretend that something has not changed. And maybe the most concrete aspect of self-change I can measure is my own evolution with regards to my reaction to change. Basically, this whole year has been nothing but constant change and learning how to adapt and cope with that change. Living in Chicago the months prior to Madagascar, moving in with 3 different families in Madagascar, going back to Evanston and living on my own in Evanston for a month, starting a life in Paris for 4 months, returning home to my family’s new home in New Mexico for a few weeks, then going off to DC and starting a new life there for 3 months. Such geographical movement in itself would easily serve as a means of inspiring change in a person, but combined with the drastically-widened scope of the kinds of people I had the opportunity to meet as a result of it, the variation of experiences I’ve been able to have over these past months has been all the more influential.
I just realized that I am sort of going absolutely nowhere with this blog post and making no real point whatsoever, but all this is really just to say that while I have changed, and largely due to the simple fact that I’ve had to learn to adapt to a large amount of change in the process, I feel like the greatest thing that has been a source of inspiration or mind-altering-ness for me this whole year has just been all the people I’ve gotten to meet from it. And that this is what I love most about getting to meet new people: the great potential inherent within each person to have such great influences on other people; if nothing else, just by being diverse – by having different opinions, different ideas, different values, different experiences, different cultures…different anything really. And, it is for this reason, that whether or not I am able to muster up certain feelings towards some study abroad experience or other college experience and ascertain how this or that experience has changed me, I can most certainly measure the ways in which every single person I’ve met over the years has changed me.
And, finally, the aspect of this realization that I think had actually inspired me to write this post in the first place and ironically also functions as the one way in which I have not managed to change at all throughout this time is my inability to cope with separation from the people I meet. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post about missing people, and I also realize this is not something abnormal or interesting to write about, but nonetheless, I feel like it’s the one thing that keeps happening again and again and ceases to lose its effect. Getting ready to head back to Evanston in the next few days and thus wrapping up another chapter in my life (the DC Baha’i internship/Maryland craigslist group house-living chapter), I am hit with fresh feelings of this unfortunate phenomena – which, every time it occurs, not only incites reflection and reminiscing for those I’ve encountered in the most recent place, but also each one that has come before it, so that now, I am simultaneously missing probably a good 50 people spanning from the remote villages of Madagascar to the Baha’i volunteer sites of my earlier youth to the unexpected friendships formed in recent months. Perhaps in this way, having too much appreciation for the true value of each person and the ways in which each has inspired me is not necessarily a good thing when it means I end up missing people I know I shouldn’t be wasting time and emotional energy on. Not that the people themselves aren’t worth it, but just that I know I wasn’t even close enough to many of them to warrant me still missing them now. I feel like I should only miss those people who I actually had a close enough connection to or long enough relationship with that keeping in touch is actually a reasonable option. Instead, I feel like I miss every single person who I end up liking or seeing something wonderful in. And as attempting to keep in touch with every cool person you meet and get to know for a brief amount of time is highly impractical (and probably creepy and weird to the other person if you were never even that great of friends), I hope I can one day learn how and when to miss people and not let it become a source of sadness at any point in time.
And that’s that. A rather pointless post mostly all to say that once again, I miss people. I don’t like that feeling. I feel like I have grown and changed this year and come to thrive upon change even more so than before, but at the same time, feel crippled over and over again by the inevitable aspect of meeting and leaving new people that will always be a part of change. And yet, all I want to do in looking towards the future is live in new places and meet new people, and never be confined to any one location or one group of people. Which of course will mean more I’ll-probably-never-see-you-again goodbyes to deal with and move on from. So if anyone has some magical solution to my [dumb and irrational yet still unfortunately debilitating] problem, please let me know.