Robin - outbound to France

I thought I would write once more, the last time before I leave. I have 25 days left in France. Scary to think, because I feel like I got here yesterday, but more and more I’ve begun feeling like I’ve lived here for 10 years. Which is weird as well, because I have been here for only 10 months. But in 10 months, I think I gained 10 years, and yet I’ve never felt younger, or more my age.

It’s difficult to describe.

In 25 days there’s still so much more I’d like to do. See my friends once more before I leave. Say goodbye to friends who are leaving before me. Go to the sea once more. Go to Lille once or twice more. Go to this one art museum I’ve never been to, go see the white cliffs by the ocean where you can see England.

I feel now the way I felt 10 months ago, when I thought about leaving. Even the day I left, it didn’t feel like I was leaving. You live your everyday life and then are suddenly uprooted from it, thrown into a new pattern, a new culture, a new language, a new setting, new people, and begin another life. I’m doing that again in 25 days. Going back to rediscover what I thought I knew so well before I was taken out of it. After 6 months in France, I remember, the thought of leaving hurt so bad. It was halfway through my exchange. At 10 months, the thought aches in a different way. More subtle, softer, but maybe more prominent, because the date is more prominent. I’ve accepted it. At the same time, I’m so excited to go home. To feel heat. To see my friends and my family and my dog Chloe. Excited to start a new chapter.

It’s just complicated. Because I don’t want to say goodbye to France. Everything clicked into place a few months ago. I was fluent in French, knew how to get around, stopped being afraid of the busses and trains and metros that were once so foreign to me, my families gained complete confidence in me and my abilities, I had friends to see and a continent and a country to discover. A few months ago, I started milking every second out of my exchange, enjoying every moment, enjoying the fruits of my labor. We could say “Darn, I should have done that thing months ago!” or “Why didn’t I think of that at the beginning?” or “Why didn’t I realize that sooner?” But that’s the thing about exchange. That’s the thing about self-growth. We learn and we change and we are better for it. I do not regret anything, because it is all of those realizations that changed me and made me better for it.

Am I ready to be suddenly uprooted from my everyday life once more? I don’t think we can ever be ready. Goodbyes are just as painful as they were a year ago, we just get used to them. Some of my best friends in the world have already left France, and I knew I was going to miss them but I didn’t know just how MUCH I was going to miss them. It’s not the same without them.

But if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that nothing will ever be “the same”. We shouldn’t mourn the past or what we can’t control. They’ve left, I’m leaving, and that’s my life now. Not to say I shouldn’t be allowed to be sad or I shouldn’t be allowed to miss people, but we can’t keep living forever in the past. There’s the saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”, and it’s been pretty resonant with me these last few days. It’s bizarre to think people are already back in Florida. It feels weird to have my days numbered in a life that feels like it’s never going to end. Weird to think I’m just going to step back into another country as if nothing ever happened, as if I never lived a year of my life in France. And I bet it will be hard. Because for 16 years I lived a life in Florida. I lived for one year in France, but so de ep and so fully that I learned just as many life lessons if not more, I made tons of friends, had tons of adventures, made plenty of mistakes and errors and slipups, and now it’s time to blend those two lives together.

However, I think this adventure has just begun. My year in France was just a prologue. I know I am braver than I ever thought I could be, I know how to handle myself in the world, I have countries to visit and friends to see and knowledge in my head and new eyes for the world and I am ready. I have two countries I love and so many more to see, I have two languages I enjoy to crack jokes in, I have a long road ahead of me, so much more to learn, I’m on a roller coaster that may have bumps but can only go up, my friends.

All my thanks to you, Rotary.