The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Sadie Allen. Sadie spent the second part of her gap year in Croatia.
“(The end) is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
— Paul Bowles
I wish I wasn’t writing this. I wish I was in another time zone, sound asleep, awaiting another day in my too-good-to-be-true life in Croatia. As many of you may know, my gap year was sadly cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak. I’ve experienced every possible emotion in the past few weeks. Elation, loss, heartbreak, and gratitude—these feelings framed my final days in Croatia. I wish I knew why all of this was happening. I wish any part of this made sense. I’ve fluctuated between acceptance and anger here. A part of me knows there is a purpose in this. A part of me can’t bear to see it.
When I found out I was coming home, many weeks before I had planned to, a heavy hole in my chest formed. It was an emptiness that I couldn’t shake. Utter hopelessness. With five days until my flight home, I felt that I had to make a choice— to fuel that hole, to feel only that emptiness, or to cherish my final five days in Croatia. I knew that I had to choose the latter. Surrounded by some of the most wonderful people I had ever met, I spent five days fully present, thrilled to be living the life I had always dreamed for myself. In a way, the brevity of my time enhanced each moment. Every walk on the beach, every bus ride, even every all-too-early morning was drenched in value. My days felt precious. Now that I am home, I wonder why I didn’t spend each day in China and Croatia like this. Why did it take a sudden and abrupt ending to treasure each second?
While there is beauty in each moment, that beauty is heightened in times of ending. I can’t help but wonder how many times my feet will feel the sand of Bačvice Beach again or how many more times I’ll visit the smoky Bronx Café. Perhaps many times, or maybe never again. These small occurrences, once mundane in my mind, are now precious. Now I can only wonder when, or if, I’ll get them back.
While I’m still angry and upset at all of this, while my heart still hurts to be home so soon, I have a greater appreciation for those little things. I thank brevity, I thank my abrupt ending, for teaching me the value in those ever-fleeting moments. May I be granted many more.