The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Caroline Brogden.
In the interest of full disclosure, I know very few things to be absolutely true, that being truth number one. Almost nothing is certain, so it seems.
I know everything is connected, I know love is the greatest force of all, and I know sweet potatoes are God’s eighth day masterpiece.
I also know that in order to let go of my feelings – the ones I no longer need to feel – I’ve got to sit with them. Name them. Stare them squarely in the face until they blush. But for the past two or so months, I’ve done a lousy job interrogating the details of my story that I dislike, or at minimum, taking them out on an investigative first date.
Yes, a first date. That’s maybe the best way I know to describe this gap year planning process, which encompasses far more than planning a gap year. The catch here is that it’s a date with myself, someone I’ve known and grown to love for coming up on two decades. Forgive my metaphors: I’ve exhausted every streaming site (and eventually Redbox) for romantic comedies this summer, which have numbed my confused numbness from the comfort of my floor bound mattress (because the loft is gone. Lots has changed.). If this gap year was a romantic comedy, I might call it… well, we’ll come back to that.
Let me expound upon, “numbed my confused numbness.” Am I supposed to know what I’m feeling right now? Fear takes up space and leaves standing room only for other customers. And I’m a feeler. How many times have I used the word “feel” in the past 272 words? How many times have I beat the phrase, “feel your feelings” into the dirt? On both accounts, enough to corroborate that I believe in the simultaneous transience and profundity of emotion. So many people ask me how I am and what I’m feeling every day that I’ve stumbled into the recent habit of thinking out loud, which is honest, but I forget which words I’ve used almost as quickly as they escape me. It flirts with pseudo-apathy while replete with genuineness. Confused yet? So am I!
I don’t know what to anticipate in the upcoming months or even from tomorrow. Case in point: the first location I thought I’d be living in Greece fell through last-minute. This falling out with ‘Greece, First Try’ was like the rom com protagonist stowing their engagement ring from destined-to-fail-romantic-interest-#1 in a place for “safe keeping.” By the time they’re conveniently-alone-together-and-can’t-leave, you’re rooting for romantic interest #2, and I’m a sucker for that. This is an oversimplification of coordinating ‘Greece, Second Try,’ but a month later, my heart reassures me for the umpteenth time today alone that everything happens exactly as it’s supposed to (another maxim to add to the list of things I know). After all, any rom com aficionado knows the protagonist and romantic interest #2 belong together!
In the wake of uncertainty, I have opted for things guaranteed to elicit an emotional response, like rom coms, kitchen dancing music (I’m looking at you, One Direction), and spending time with sunshine people. I have similarly avoided and evaded.
A week later, and with 24 hours until boarding time, I’m reading over this and smiling to myself. Nothing is certain, except I travel with the prayers and light of friends and family. Everything is connected, as evidenced by numerous allusions to and literal butterflies I see everywhere, for which a psychic told me to watch (the universe winks at me). Love is the greatest force of all, and in the pursuit of humility, I ask to be reduced to love. Sweet potatoes are divine, and I wonder what other magical foods await my gut flora.
I am voluntarily leaving a routine life I cherish, complete with the knowledge of which floorboards in my room squeak, which hands squeeze hardest during a dinner blessing, and the person I have been for 18 years. I am headed to a place where I will be surrounded by people, many of whom are refugees who have not had the privilege of leaving at any time like I do. It is a heavy, serious consideration which makes me ever more grateful for the month of rest and lifetime of security I have been afforded. I am endlessly excited by this opportunity for cultural immersion, good eatin’, and a series of healthy “growing up” risks, and I know I must also create a ritual, as my Aunt Laura advised, that opens for empathy and closes before I let too much suffering in. What comes next is hard and worth it.
I have stared, and prodded, and named. I am scared, and overwhelmed, and full at any given moment. If I was living in a rom com, I’d call it, “She’s Got Feelings.”
To all the homes and hearts that have nourished me, thank you. You are dear to me forever, which is absolutely true. I’ll see you in Greece.