-Anna Brodmerkel, 2014 GGYF Fellow
Home. I’ve been here for a month now, and time has flown by just as quickly as I imagined it would, which was exactly one of the reasons I dreaded coming home from Nicaragua, from my gap year. I knew I would spend all of July rushing around from place to place to see family and friends, and never actually be home. I didn’t dread seeing everyone-I’ve loved seeing everyone and keeping busy, just like every other summer. But it’s almost strange how similar this July felt compared to so many others, making my entire gap year feel like a dream.
Re-entry was not so easy this time. I’ve come back home, or at least to the USA, after every country, but this time I wasn’t jet setting off to another in a few days or weeks. Knowing I would begin to have real responsibilities and come back to “normal” life was scary. Leaving my (host) sister Lussiana, my nephew and Mamá, my friends, my students, my teachers, my co-workers was the most difficult it’s ever been. I think it’s because I made a life in Nicaragua. I had a family, three volunteer jobs, school (Spanish lessons), and the best circle of friends, both Nicaragüense and international.
And all those people were on my mind as I felt the uncontrollable tears roll down my face, just as the rain rolled down the windows of the Miami airport on July 2nd. They were the people I wanted to celebrate Independence Day with on July Fourth, as weird as that sounds. They were the people I wanted to watch the FIFA World Cup Finals with in Artesanos Café Bar, right next to Colibri Spanish School. And this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy being with my family on either of these events, because I truly did. It’s that I didn’t feel right; I felt like something, someone, some people, were missing. This longing to be in a place that I called home for two months led to the unavoidable guilt I’d tried to ignore for the past year.
How is it possible that I could appear to miss people I’d only known for three months, max, more than I could miss my family and friends? Is that fair? No. Did I know that? Yes. The only defense I have is the crazy idea of “permanence.” The people I met, who loved me, who I loved, who I shared crazy, spontaneous adventures with, who I had deep conversations about life with, who changed and impacted me in countless ways, were only in my life for a such a short amount of time. I have no idea when I will see any of these beautiful people again, if at all. I hope I can, but I have no idea what the future holds. I plan on travelling more and more, which means I will meet more and more people. So how do I keep in touch with all those people, and make sure I see the ones you made an unbreakable bond with again? How do the people I’ve known all my life fit into my ever-expanding FaceBook friend list?
Now, I realize it probably hurts my family and friends from home to say I wish I were elsewhere, to not want to be in small town Burgaw with them. I know they understand I don’t mean it in a hurtful way. I know they know I love them. And I do. Because if anything would ever happen while I was away, if I were to take their permanence in my life for granted, I would be heartbroken. I would be there in a minute for them. No matter where in the world I was, I would fly back home. Everything I am, I can accredit to my closest circle, the people who I know will always be there for me.
Permanence-it doesn’t exist. People, situations, and life in general, is always changing. Feeling guilty over taking it for granted is natural. Most humans do. I would even venture to say most travellers take the permanence of home for granted more than others. Because that’s the great thing about home, whether it’s the town you’ve grown up in, or a place you feel the safest or most comfortable, people have to love you there. They may not understand the crazy ideas that fill your head, or the new clothes you want to wear, or the new language you speak, but they have to love you. That love is the closest thing to permanence we can achieve.
My home is here in Burgaw, it always will be, but UNC will be my new home for the next four years. Now, I’m left with a measly one and a half weeks before university starts. I’m trying to not think about it, just like I tried to not think about leaving for Greece, a year ago. It’s the only way I can stop myself from having a nervous breakdown. Am I really ready for the next best four years of my life? The most academically challenging and rigorous classes I will ever take? The life-long friends I will make? Yes, of course I will love it. It’s the moment my entire life has been building up to. The moment is finally here-almost. In Ghana, I came to the realization that once I leave for UNC, I’m not going to be back much-ever. I plan on using my summers to travel, volunteer, intern. Then, who knows? So, until August 13th comes, I’m focusing on the easy summer days with my life long friends.
Traveling is in my blood now. I can’t stay still. People greet me as the “World Traveler.” Seriously, it’s as if a PSA went out and renamed me. But hey, it’s not such a bad name, and who doesn’t like a little positive attention and recognition? Then, as if there’s a written script, people ask me that silly ‘ol question, “Ready to settle down in Chapel Hill?” Settle down? Ever? Pssshhhttt. Y’all crazy- this is only the beginning.
Sending love to all my family and friends from Burgaw, from NC, and to all my internationals!
Xoxo, besitos y abrazos,