The Second 128

September 22, 2015

I’ve finally spent as much time in 2015 in the United States as I did in Europe. Last week, I hit my 128th day back home, equaling the amount of time I spent from January until May in Ireland and around other parts of Europe (plus Morocco). In an obvious sense, the recent 128 days couldn’t have been much more different than the first 128. But it took all the way until the 128th day back in the States to realize that in a truer sense, my life is in the same state of flux now as it was in the first third of 2015.

From January 6 until May 14, I flew on 20 planes and spent time in even more cities. I saw the Vatican and two Olympic Villages, hiked small mountains, rode a camel, and surfed, among plenty of other things I’d never thought I’d get to do. I’ve written about all of these things before, so I won’t waste much more time now. But it’s important to remember the stark contrast between this lifestyle and my way of life this summer. Back home, I worked 40 hours most weeks, couldn’t legally go to bars until two months after returning, and took road trips only to Kansas City, Chicago, and Milwaukee. No planes, no beaches, no mountains, no deserts.

I thought that I needed to take a break from traveling. To be fair, I had burned myself out a bit, and road trips through America aren’t quite as seamless as flights across Europe. But after struggling for so long to find my footing in Europe (which did finally happen, come March), I had to work again to jump back into regular life at home. I got so used to traveling that I craved being home. The problem was, I tried for too long to force myself to feel like my life was normal. On the return-leg of my road trips, the excess time to think had me questioning everything I’d done in 2015, even whether it’d actually been in my best interest to go abroad. This mindset contrasted starkly with the plane and bus rides back from my non-Irish destinations abroad, quiet times that allowed me to reflect on my time in the new cities and become excited again to explore more of Galway.

I was supposed to have it all figured out when I came back home. At least, that’s the illusion I believed from day one abroad when I first panicked and convinced myself that St. Louis had lost its ills and transformed into bliss. So when I got home, I didn’t let myself believe that I’d changed abroad. Yes, I told myself that it had been a life-changing experience, but nothing I actually did this summer reflected that reality. Coming back gave me the excuse to become complacent and try to live the life that I’d led for the first 20 years of my life, unwilling to accept my transformation as a crucial part of identity. Everything had been different for those 128 days abroad, but as far as I was concerned, it would all return to what my life had been in 2014, before Ireland.

Life is fluid, and it’s supposed to be that way. I wanted it to be static all summer, and it wasn’t until I moved back in to SLU and Oriflamme started that I started to really let life happen again, to accept that my time abroad had actually changed me and I ought to start living that way. But even here, for the first few weeks, I wanted to believe that SLU hadn’t actually changed in my absence. Everything could be the same as it had been, and I’d be okay with that. In fact, I thought I’d prefer it. I waited the first month out until everything kicked back up for good this past weekend, when I thought that life would be totally back to normal.

Instead, it kicked me in the ass on my 128th day back home and pushed the first 128 back to the forefront of my mind. I’d changed, and so had my world, my home, my identity. I realized that I don’t have everything figured out, that maybe I know even less than I did before. But interestingly enough, accepting that reality put me at ease. Finally, I don’t need to force my old life into my new one. 2014 was an unbelievable year, but I have a feeling that I’ll look back on 2015 much more fondly, even if it took my nearly a full nine months to appreciate all that it’s been doing for me. Everything is uncertain, and it couldn’t be more exciting. It’s time to travel and explore again, to stop dwelling on dreams and get on with living.

“Dreaming” – Smallpoools


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