Some of the best things come out of us when we’re unceremoniously dumped somewhere and forced to rise to the challenge.
Transitioning from Chile back home came with a glaring lack of ceremony. We only had time to say goodbye to some, and in most cases we weren’t aware in the moment that it’d be the last time we saw each other. I had to unexpectedly leave in the middle of the night one night, with about 15 minutes to pack my things and fly out of the apartment that had hosted me so graciously. I thought my makeshift ceremony would be sleeping one last night in my bed, but no.
Two chaotic and haphazard days later, I was back in Minnesota, at a friend’s little apartment in the Twin Cities. My homecoming ceremony was to fall asleep on the couch for 17 hours.
Part of me couldn’t understand how there could be such a raw transition from one life to another, a transition so unprotected by the ceremonies we like to use to cushion change. Without that cushioning (the health scientist in me would like to call it cartilage), these two drastically different lives have bumped up against one another. It’s been a little uncomfortable.
But the fact that the transition wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t slow, and it wasn’t foreseen for months and weeks and days, means it’s required something special from us: it’s called upon us to create meaning where meaning isn’t inherently built in-- where ceremony hasn’t created it for us.
I think we’re all trying, bit by bit. For my part, I’m evaluating the things I found most meaningful about our time there and saying thank you and goodbye to each one, as they come. Most of them are people, moments, or giant hunks of land that knocked me over with their glory. Or, just my morning four-block walk from the apartment to the metro, with the angry streets and the happy sun.
In this way, although we couldn’t properly say goodbye to Chile while we were there, we say goodbye now, a little each day. And the parts we can take with us-- the strength earned, the joy, the things we’ve learned that we’ll never not know-- we’re keeping all of them.
To anyone wondering if they should spend their semester in Chile, know that it’s a hard place to leave. But after having gone, you can take comfort in knowing it has stayed pretty close to your heart.
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<p>I'm from small-town Minnesota and in my third year at Grinnell College, where I'm independently majoring in Health Science Writing. I enjoy drinking tea, cooking, swing dancing and signing ASL. I also read a lot of books and entertain myself with little things like research projects and scavenger hunts. I chose to study abroad in Santiago, Chile - a city of over 5 million - because my top two priorities were (1) to live someplace I could speak Spanish all the time, and (2) to live in a way that's significantly different from what I already know.</p>