Well it’s here, my last day in the States. Today, I board a plane to take me back home across the Atlantic, back to a city of hills and people I love and tea with milk and sugar. Today, my American adventure ends and a new one begins, back on English soil.
I hate goodbyes. They always make me cry, even though normally the only thing that makes me cry is the final chapter of a book I have loved. Goodbyes always seem so bittersweet, even if it’s the kind of goodbye that is necessary, that leads on to better and brighter things. I hate goodbyes so much I even avoid saying the word. It’s always just ‘See you later’ or ‘Keep in touch’; any way to keep things from feeling too final.
I’m glad to be leaving; I am. That doesn’t mean that I’m not sad, though. If I’ve learned from all my adventures in life, it’s that you can be sad and glad and a hundred other things all in one moment.
I’m writing this final goodbye a few days ahead of time because I fully expect to be shedding some tears on that final day and it’s hard to type through tears. I’m writing it from the beach house of a much-loved friend who I will miss so much. I’m writing it from the North Carolina coast which, of all the places I have been on this continent, has felt most like home. I’m writing it now while I still can.
My American adventure has been… interesting. Honestly, at times it’s been so hard I wondered if I had made the right decision getting on that plane ten months ago. It’s been challenging to be so far from home, to not be able to have a hug when I needed one most. I’ve complained about too-large grocery store bills and medical charges. I’ve lamented the mosquitos and the summer humidity that seems to come straight from hell itself. I’ve not been thankful of the extra pounds America has piled on me, despite eating salads and blitzing smoothies for breakfast at 6am every day. Because here’s a truth: America is not perfect. But here’s another truth: nothing and nowhere is.
But for all those challenges, this past year has been wonderful in so many ways. I have walked around lakes and through forests, talked to turtles and cardinals and narrowly avoided coyotes and snakes. I have been to places I had dreamed of visiting for so long and done things I would never have done anywhere else. I have taken risks and challenged myself and proved to myself that I am as brave as I always wanted to be. I have taught and loved my ragamuffin class of kiddoes, have become a better teacher and a better student. I have made friends that have become family and learned that wherever in the world you go, the old cliché is true because it is so totally the people that make it.
Bad days and good days, it’s all been an adventure and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
But it has to end sometime, and today is that day. I’ve packed everything back into those three suitcases that I came with, but the reality is that the things I’ve collected that matter most can’t be packed anyway. All that I have learned and loved along the way I’ll carry with me – in photographs and memories and things that make me smile and giggle even now.
I’m already excited to see friends and family and to be able to walk to the co-op and eat bread that isn’t sweet or Cadbury’s chocolate that tastes like Cadbury’s chocolate. I’m excited to look into my friends’ eyes when I talk to them, and not have to type a message to them or talk over wobbly phone lines bouncing over ocean waves. I wonder if they’ll notice a change in me, if they’ll care that there’s a bit more of me to hug now, and how long they’ll let me talk their ear off while I fill them in properly on eleven months away. I’m already laughing at the excitement of my dog when he sees me and doesn’t just have to cry at my voice, heard over Skype. I can’t wait to hug my nephew and niece and measure how much they’ve grown. I can’t wait to be home.
But I’m going home different. I’m going home changed. I’m going home a different version of the Miss L that left for her dream adventure last year. And that, dear reader, is the point. Whether the adventure turns out to be what you expected or not, better or worse than you imagined, successful in other’s eyes or just in your own – the point is that it happened.
Goodbye America – there, I said it. Goodbye and thank you. You’ve been a great adventure.