On January 22nd, my life changed forever. I got on a plane, and for six hours, I wondered about what the world would be like. Why was I wondering this? Well, I was going abroad, about to see so much more than the small town and small college I grew up in. I was about to become "worldy" or whatever that meant, but there were so many nerves within me as I sat on that overnight flight.
I feared what would happen to me. Would this be the best experience of my life? Would this make me wise? I should have been thinking optimistically, but I also wondered if this experience would break me. Would I be scarred for life? Would my friends from home forget about me? Would I make any friends in Ireland?
Well, after four months, I can tell you that the girl asking those questions on that long flight is not the same girl today. So much has happened to me these past four months, and I can honestly say that I do not know if they are good or bad, and that is okay.
For those who wish to know what it is like to go abroad, I can honestly say it differs for everyone, but here are some things that happened to me.
1. I saw that the world is truly beautiful.
Wow. Getting out of your comfort zone is so hard to do, but when I went abroad, I was forced to. I went to Ireland with no one but myself, and it was a blessing to me. I needed to break out of my shell, or I had no chance. I dove into the water without testing it, and it was amazing. Different landscapes and cultures engulfed me, and they were so unique and amazing that I can say that I really cannot grasp my home in America anymore. The world is huge and full of wonderful surprises. All one can do it take it in, and feel the joy that a comfort zone cannot give.
2. I learned that no place in the world is perfect.
The first couple weeks in Ireland, I thought there was no better country in the world. I was comparing it to America, which is pretty normal to do. It's how I found my footing, and I kind of shamed America for not being as "grand" as my new home. However, as I learned more about my country, and the countries surrounding it, I learned that no place is perfect. No place is paradise, unless you don't try to fully dive into a new country. However, it's okay.
3. I met some amazing people.
I came to Ireland by myself. I did not know anyone, and that is very scary. Nonetheless, I had to meet new people. I had to let my guard down in a way I did not in America, and yes, some friendships were not meant to be, and some people have been by my side through it all, their own experiences teaching me so much. They all experienced different things too, and we all relied on each other, and yet, were independent of each other, thriving either way. They taught me to trust new people and to also trust myself, despite my surroundings changing so much.
4. I grew up in the best ways.
I gained confidence. I traveled on my own. I experienced things on my own. I went out until four in the morning with no regrets. I hiked up a mountain with my friends because it was behind the house we rented, and why not? I could breathe with no anxiety; the anxiety that plagued me on that first plane ride. I took risks, but not stupid ones. I lived in the moment because when would I get these chances again? And I learned about chances. I learned how to be by myself. At 19, I felt like school didn't exist, and life was just in front of me.
5. I grew up in the worst ways.
I lost confidence. I took bad risks. I let myself feel too soon. I forgot how young I was. I worried about home because sometimes I just thought about home. I saw an adult world that I was not always ready for. I went against my own judgment. I forgot that there was still a real world below the fantasy. And when I learned my wrongdoing, I was slammed to the ground, the air rushed from my lungs.
6. I fell in love.
I fell in love with people. My heart dug itself out of those walls, and I trusted people, who also trusted me. I had late night talks with my roommate that I never had with anyone else - we would talk until the sun rose, and that never happened to me. People pleasantly surprised me. Men treated me like I was something more than an awkward 19-20-year-old. People wanted me to be comfortable, despite y comfort zone being so far away.
7. I was hurt.
I saw people at their worst. I saw myself at my lowest. I let myself overthink the most straightforward things. People disappointed me. People betrayed my trust. Men took my heart and ripped it up in front of me. I disappointed myself. I cried a good couple times over things I should not have. I got carried away, so fast, that when someone blocked me, I was smacked right back down to zero miles.
8. I messed up...and recovered
I got lost. I asked for directions. I got angry. I got sad. I got anxiety...and then I realized that it's okay. And if it wasn't okay, it was going to be okay. Because how many twenty-year-old girls could say that they lived in a different country for four months? How many people can say that they picked themselves up so many times, and found a new high with a new culture and new friends? How many people can say they truly opened themselves up, and let the world hit them and hold them at the same time? I hope more of you.
9. I found a new home, despite everything.
It was the most amazing experience of my life, and I have a week left. Where is home now that I have two? How can I get back here? Will I revert back to the person I know when I return? What will my old friends think? What will happen to my new friends?
You know what? I'm going to stop asking questions. Life is too short, and the country I am is too beautiful to allow times for questions. Things will work themselves out. The last four months did. And my next years and choices will too. I just need to let my guard down and take it all in because this life is a one time deal - let's make it sensational.