“Life is full of leavings/with every leaving’s a receiving/it’s just a matter of believing/that more will come to meet your eyes”
These words, penned by a dear friend and the most talented songwriter I know, have resonated with me since the first time I heard them. They speak of hope and sorrow intertwined and of grief and joy coexisting as two sides of the same coin. They reveal a redemptive perspective on the separations and sufferings of life, and I think of them now that I’ve left Scotland behind and returned home to my family. They help me ask questions about what I learned, whether I’m glad I went, and who I’ve become through this time away.
Scotland was uncomfortable. It was cold; the sun set way too early; I was lonely. There were days where it was a challenge to get myself to class, and others where I wished I wasn’t there at all. The guitar program at Aberdeen did not have the infrastructure and institutional support that Belmont does, and so opportunities for performance, growth, and development were much harder to come by. I often felt isolated, frustrated, and hopeless in the face of what felt like the insurmountable obstacles of practice, coursework, graduate applications, and self-care. I missed my family, and I missed my home.
Scotland was also beautiful. Its landscapes are arresting; its history is fascinating; its people are welcoming. I was embraced into the loving and supportive community of Bon Accord Free Church, and for my music courses I sat under two of the best lecturers I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. I made dear friends that I’ll always be grateful to have known. Some of the most beautiful aspects of my time there, though, were those that were emphasized by my discomfort. Loneliness allowed time for a self-reflection more honest than I had experienced in a long time. Isolation gave me the opportunity to consistently come face-to-face with my own guitar practice. Separation from my home community and personal support systems allowed me to understand what I truly rely on in life. I was given the chance to see myself clearly, without the distractions of familiarity and comfort. This was a gift, and I am thankful for it.
Life is full of leavings, and this means more than leaving a place or leaving a person. I left parts of myself behind in Scotland and came back a different person, hopefully more honest and empathetic than before. In leaving behind attachments and desires I received the opportunity to rewrite myself, to form myself into a person who lives more in line with the core fabric of life. My study abroad experience was not a classic one; I did not fall in love with the city of Aberdeen, and I was glad when the time came to return home. But I am grateful I went because life is pretty dull without growth and change, and I will miss the people whose lives I entered into. I’m glad I went, I’m glad to be home, and I’m scared and excited about what comes next.
It’s just a matter of believing, and more has come to meet my eyes.