Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I’m writing this in Heathrow airport. I’ll be here for the next 20 hours and then I’m getting on a plane back to America. It’s been an absolute nightmare getting here, but here I am.

I guess I should rewind a wee bit. First of all, my goodbye party was a success! The part where we tried to go clubbing together was a bit unfortunate (Tuesday night deadness), but we relocated back to my flat and the good times continued to roll.

I knew I was going to stay up all night the night before I left, because I thought it would be silly to spend my last remaining hours with my friends in a state of unconsciousness. In the end, only Rosie made it all the way with, but everyone else made a valiant effort. Laura and Jill shared a bed, while Pip and Karen slept in a cardboard box in my attic. No, really.

I thought staying up all night would give me plenty of time to finish packing and goof off too, but the more I packed the more I realized it was going to take some kind of miracle to fit all my shit into my suitcases. In the end, I ended up packing an extra bunch of stuff in this shitty cardboard box which is about to disintegrate after the beating it took today, and giving Laura a bag full of more stuff with the promise that I would pick it up “next time we hang out.” Behold the power of denial, that I was able to keep from bawling as I said those words.

Final goodbyes occurred at the train station. It was sad. Really, really sad. A decent amount of that sadness had to do with the fact that, managing my luggage on my own, my top speed was like 0.25 miles per hour and everything kept falling was a disaster. I thanked [insert deity here] that I didn’t have to change trains on my way down to London, and I could take the Tube to this airport instead of a train that costs ₤15 (cough cough, fuck off Stansted, cough).

I dozed a little bit on the 7-hour train ride, but mostly I had too much to think about to get any real sleep. I should have been more grateful that my millions of pounds of stuff was sitting on a luggage rack instead of being hauled all over town by poor little me, but there you go. Getting off the train in London was miserable. Getting on the Tube was miserable. Getting off the Tube was miserable. And it was HOT. Sweat pouring down my face. Wearing thick clothes to save space in my suitcase. Dear lord.

One thing I’ll never understand about the London Underground is the lack of escalators or elevators in so many Tube stations. At one point I was dragging my stuff down the steps one at a time and it all fell down to the bottom and I remembered when I was doing the same thing with Sarah back in September how many people were tripping all over themselves to help the pretty girl carry her things. Why couldn’t I be a pretty girl, just for today? Or at least have enormous breasts?

The only thing worse than hauling your shit down the steps to the Tube is hauling it up. They didn’t even have a fucking escalator or elevator at the Tube stop for the airport. Are they not expecting anyone going to the airport to have any luggage? Assholes!

Well, I made it to the airport. The only thing between me and home is a bunch of time to kill, so I’m glad the worst is over.

All this, and I haven’t even started writing about all the thoughts that have been running through my head all day long. Now that I’ve left Aberdeen for good, I can start thinking about this year differently: as a whole, as something that’s been completed, something I can make sense of. You know, all the clichés about studying abroad are 100% true: it changed my life, it opened my eyes to other cultures, I’ve grown so much, I feel more confident, I feel more capable, etc. All that stuff is true. But the realization is no less powerful just because everyone told me this would happen.

Now that it’s more or less over, more than ever I can see that any of the “bad” things to come out of this year are just not important compared to so much good. I don’t even think I believe that anything bad came out of this year, but I know I’ve spent time worrying about such things over the last 10 months. For example, I worried about the fact that, even with my clean slate, I made a lot of the same mistakes I’ve made in my “normal” life, mistakes I thought I would get away from by moving here. But it doesn’t matter because the difference is in how I dealt with them.

Part of me is totally used to this new lifestyle I’ve been living -- all the cultural differences, traveling around Europe on a regular basis, totally cut off from my friends and family -- and part of me cannot get over all the amazing places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the incredible friends who were everything I had besides what I brought here in a couple of suitcases. I’ve been through so much, and I am changed for it. I will never be the me I was before I came here, but luckily I am proud of the me that’s going home.

I’m worried about things like reverse-culture shock. I’m worried about the difficulty of reintegrating back into my own life, and dealing with how much my friends’ and family’s lives will have changed without me. I’m worried about feeling like I don’t know people I’m supposed to know better than anyone. I feel like those things will affect me more than most people just because of the way I am. But right now I can’t look forward yet, I can only look backward and think, Holy shit. I did it.


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