When we leave our families for the first time, a deconstruction occurs. Our old selves find the present: a place never fully examined. We begin to see ourselves as vulnerable, unsure, bouncing like a ball from an unknown drop. We roll around people, claiming commonalities, basing ourselves in a new chosen “normal.” We are reshaped, and we reshape others. Then, we decide to once again embrace the art of change by leaving, not only our new and old family, but also the ground from which we came.
There is a whole new set of anticipated expectations that simply may or may not be met when you decide to leave your country to study abroad for a fourth of the year with 19 other people whom you do not know. There is one thing you do know: these people will be your new “for now” family. You may not get on with all of them, but you come to see people as they are and appreciate the journey that you take together. Shoulder to shoulder, knowing this is short-term, you take risks together, and you take the blows to your expectations together.
Change is a strange medium. It has the power to present us a new perspective, a high peak to stand upon as we look out into the past from where we came. It allows us a low valley to look here at the present, to see a moment for what it is, once we are back on “normal” ground. Evaluation of change redefines our ideas of what expectations looked like before we changed, while we’re changing, and after we have changed. In our world of time, reference to our yesterdays, to history, is the tool we have in our “now.” How we perceive the past, how we direct the inertia of these changes today–this is how we transition.
This was how I transitioned. Coming back from Ireland, I cried. For weeks my stomach rejected the feeling of waking up in this place that before, I’d called home. I didn’t know where I was “from” anymore. My mind played tricks on me. When I smoothed the same lotion on my hands, I smelled my recently-departed home, but my eyes clearly did not see the same skies.
I rejected the idea of blue above, I missed soft rain kissing my cheeks, dappling my hair, and waking up to go downstairs and be greeted with tea, chocolate biscuits, and a melodious cadence voicing wisdom with my 19 brothers and sisters beside me.
So yes, I cried. In three months I made a new “for now” family. And in less time than that, I lost them, wishing they’d remained my “now” family. We all came back with new expectations of gathering together as we once did in our foreign home, that we now had the choice to choose. Deconstruction reoccurred.
Now at a peak, with a year passed, I cry not of sadness but of appreciation for that small amount of time that we had each other. Every moment is precious, yes, there’s no denying this. But, each segment of time is meant for certain people to live alongside each other until it is time to move on.
The following is a poem to accompany my column.
A Scene from Transitions:
See the color green in Gary’s eyes. See it fade to grey, the day. Smell salt, it will burn your nose. Listen to the lap, “click click” lap of slapping water on stone, cold, holding it’s own, tall like Tally trees.
Walk on cold 9 a.m. cobblestone, away from the crowd, into an empty 10 p.m. street.
Go into that black brick pub, pace right, out of sight; see that red hair, curled, with big blue eyes and that laugh-line face with the white beard and a pipe, smoke pulsing from the barrel with a clean strike, keeping the beat of the youth beside him, stout, mumbling with a cadence that so entrances us “Americans” while folk music creates the air of Saint Georges Market: a place of faces.
We ate food that was gross. We got lost and scared red-faced, glasses fogged. We felt like children at times arguing, laughing: past bedtimes in sheet tents, socked feet on strict kitchen floors.
We were tourists, map holders, walkers and late night bus riders. We hiked we flew we spoke with strangers just like us, but not at all were we ever asked to change at all who we were. That happened like things do often. We did change and we liked it. We are there now, here. We left expecting old trite visions, and found this: everything is the same, and not at all.
Addington is a senior majoring in digital media arts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.