“Not all those who wander are lost.” –J.R.R. Tolkien
Well, the adventure has officially ended. For the first time in four months I’m writing one of these blogs from Texas, enjoying the warmth and soaking up the sun. It was a week ago today that I boarded the plane and left Belfast behind me. Time, always confusing, seems to have both stretched and shrunken since I flew away; while it still surprises me that I’m waking up in the United States, it also feels like I never left home, almost as if my semester in Belfast lives in an undisturbed bubble.
I’ve had sometime now to reflect on the semester and the things I learned while overseas. As I’ve said in the past, most of what I learned was not about Poetry, Theology, or Irish Studies (although these classes did teach me some…); instead, the experiences I’ve had have revealed more about me and myself as a person. I have gained confidence and some self-assurance, appreciation for all the wonderful opportunities at my home university–Austin College–and I have become more calm about uncertainties in my future.
I have come to terms with the fact that my time in Belfast is over. Endings are always sad, and it feels like I wasn’t just leaving behind a group of friends, I was also saying good-bye to a city. But endings can also be quietly beautiful. My relationships with my friends in Belfast didn’t slowly fade as we drifted apart, and my love for the city didn’t fizzle; instead, I left abruptly with just enough time to say a last farewell. There was no chance for anything to be tainted by sourness and my semester in Belfast will live in my memory as a perfect experience. I know that it wasn’t always easy to be in away from my family (and it wasn’t fun to learn the power of culture-shock), but I came to love Belfast and to love the friends I made there. I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life.
It feels like I have changed and grown so much in this semester, but everything here is exactly as I left it. At first this made me sad, like everyone here was missing out or simply couldn’t understand my transformation, but I have realized something since. Just as north Texas didn’t change in my absence, Belfast wasn’t altered because of my presence. Belfast will continue on, just as it did before I got there, just as my hometown did after I left. But the way the places have influenced me will stay with me forever. It seems sort of fitting; we are just fleeting influences on places, but they can come to define us. And maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t good-bye for me and Belfast. Perhaps someday our paths will cross again and she will influence me while I simply pass through. I look forward to that day.