Running back to my problems in the United States
Several days ago I read an article reposted to Facebook by an acquaintance (the type of acquaintance that can only exist on Facebook) that read to the extent of, “I didn’t study abroad because I decided not to run away from my problems.” After skimming the article and mentally patting myself on the back for deciding to study abroad to improve my language skills and see the world as opposed to running away from deep-seated problems lurking in Chapel Hill, I continued on with my day. I thought to myself, “I don’t have any problems to run away from.” Go me, right? But the reality is that while I have not fled from explicit issues, I have certainly found a safe haven away from the pressures of growing up.
It’s as though when I stepped on to a plane to South America nearly six months ago I stepped into a bubble. A bubble which allowed me to get immersed in the vibrant life around me but left me isolated from the world outside of my immediate surroundings. Gone were the worries of getting published, gone were the complaints of my friends about their boyfriends, gone were the family dramas. Over time, reminders of my life in the United States slipped through. I had to sign up for classes in the fall, fill out doodle polls for my availability for work meetings, and apply for summer internships. Apart from those which slipped through, some were pulled through in the form of reading articles on the Orlando shooting, skyping with friends to hear about their lives, and mentally designing my apartment for next semester. In a week from today, the bubble in which I exist will pop when I return home. The people I met will stay primarily on Whatsapp and Facebook and the memories in pictures and souvenirs. I will be thrown back into the life of professional development, the politics of the UNC gay community, and the constant nagging to figure out my life. You can’t run away forever, I guess.
While my time abroad certainly allowed me to have a break from the stressors of an endlessly progressing life, the stagnant existence I have found here certainly came with its challenges. I will not miss the remnants of tear gas I sometimes walk through on my way to class. It will be a treat to have consistently hot water in the mornings and not relying on someone else for food. But most of all burritos, I miss burritos. Burritos and Nilla Wafers and good pizza.
All joking aside, the end of these last six months is bittersweet to say the least. In my first blog post I wrote that I anticipated that this time would change the way I view the world, and it has. I have felt miniscule next to the moai on Easter Island. I have watched constellations soar across the night sky in the driest desert on earth and watched Condors soar above the deepest canyon. I have learned from Mapuche communities to the South of me and from ancient Incan civilizations to the North of me. I have come to be able to communicate in another language without thinking of the words that pass my lips.
After six months I think I am ready to go back home. Back to my progressing college life that has patiently waited. I sit here in my bed trying to distill a single eloquent sentence that would encapsulate the growth I have experienced in the last six months and am coming up short. I am hesitant to embrace the cliches of saying it opened my eyes and heart or made me appreciate the life I have in the States, despite the truth those statements hold. Instead I will leave you with this: Get out of your bubble every now and then and see just what the rest of the world has to hold, it just might surprise you.
That’s it for now, check back in in a week or two to see if I survived my empanada withdrawal.
As always, thank you for reading,