I am writing my first blog post from an airplane flying somewhere over the middle of the United States. I'm on my way back to the land of sunshine and palm trees, my first home, after a much needed trip back to Glenside, my other home. I originally went back to participate as an orientation leader for international students with my school's IPAL (International Peer Associate's League) program, and while I loved it, the most important part of my trip was being able to see a few friends and my boyfriend. And by “see,” I mean visit with and say goodbye to while trying to hold back tears. If there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I am very emotional. I cry often- at happy things, sad things, stressful things. Tears seem to be my body's default response to any type of feeling. Knowing that, one can only imagine what this set of goodbyes was like.
Goodbyes are never easy, but they're something that I need to become accustomed to. I chose a life that requires me to say goodbye to people that I love far too often. I moved across the country for college in the fall of 2014 from California to Pennsylvania and I have a passion for traveling, which means that studying abroad is an important part of my life. I spent my Spring 2015 semester studying in London, England and will be spending my Spring 2016 semester in Cape Town, South Africa. Therefore, the people that are most important to me are scattered around the globe. They are in California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Florida, New Jersey, London, and the list goes on. However, that doesn't really matter, because I believe that the universe has a plan for us. I believe that part of that plan is to make sure that whoever is meant to be in your life will always be there. Now I don't mean physically because, like I said, I move around a lot and frequently am not in the same place as the people I love. But when someone is truly supposed to be a part of your life, distance and time will not be factors. These are the people that you know you can pick up the phone to call if you need something or if you just miss hearing their voice, but they're also the people who you can go days or weeks or sometimes even months without talking to and know that when you see them again, you can pick up right where you left off like no time even passed.
When I went to Arcadia University last fall, it was the first time that I left my home. I was nervous, but I was more excited because I believe that we are not meant to live in one place forever. We are all citizens of this world and we are meant to explore and learn and meet new people and try new things that will change us and shape us into the people we are meant to be. But what I didn't anticipate was beginning to feel like my home wasn't really my home anymore. During my first semester of college, I missed my family and my friends back in California, as well as my hometown itself, but it didn't feel like my only home anymore. Arcadia and Glenside and Pennsylvania, but more interestingly, my friends that I met there began to feel like home. And then, when I went abroad to live and study in London, I experienced the same feeling. After being there for a while and getting set into a routine, I fell in love with the city and I felt like I belonged there. I belonged in London in my house in Notting Hill, with the friends that I had there. And I realized that London was my home, too. The same way that California was my home and the same way that Arcadia was my home. And the same way that my friends are my home.
It took me a while to be able to put into words, but I soon came to the realization that “home” is not what I thought it was. Home is not where I grew up. It is not the house that I lived in for 16+ years, it isn't the street that I grew up on and it isn't even just my family. It is not one place. Home is where my heart is. And my heart is big and it grows every time it finds something else that it loves. I will have many homes throughout my life and some will be places and some will be people and that's okay. I won't have only one place that I will go back to that gives me that sense of comfort and of being loved that “home” does. My home is when I walk into my childhood house in California and am trampled by all of my dogs. It’s also when I hug my mom and it is also when I am laughing with my best friends and it is also when I am riding the tube in London. Home is where my heart is and my heart is in so many places and with so many people.
So, goodbyes are hard and I have to say them often. In fact, I have another set of goodbyes to say in just a week when I leave California and embark on my journey to Cape Town. Those goodbyes will hurt and I will undoubtedly shed many tears over having to leave the people and a place that I love. But it’s okay because I will be back in California with those people again. Goodbyes are temporary. My loved ones will be waiting for me when I come back. And I am so excited to discover another home in South Africa.