I sort of feel like I woke up from a really long dream. After coming back to America and picking up life where I left off in January, it seems like the four months I spent in Europe didn’t actually happen. I don’t see any of the people I was with–the people who quickly became my family for a semester–and I don’t see all the places I traveled to…and I’m finding myself thinking more and more often, wow, all of that really did happen, didn’t it?
It makes me sad how quickly we forget. Of course I remember the fun experiences I had, the amazing things I saw, the people I was with. But I don’t know them anymore. I can’t tell you the way House 9 smelled. I can’t conjure-up that fatigued/sick feeling you get in your stomach while on a three hour-long bus ride at 4 in the morning (not that I’d really want to re-live that anyway…). I would have to see the houses’ front door padlocks to remember the code. I know all these things, but it’s as if I knew them in another life–like my semester in Oxford was a book I loved deeply but put down a month ago.
When I see my Oxford friends on campus next semester, I imagine us having a reaction similar to the characters on LOST *spoiler alert* when they get off the island and run into each other in LA–that thing where you kind of give each other a knowing nod in mutual understanding of an experience you shared that no one else can fully comprehend but you can’t really talk about because it’s too insane to try to put into words. Yeah…that. It’s just so odd to think that it’s over. It’s really over. Because no matter how many times I go back to Oxford and all the other countries I visited, my experiences there will never be the same as the ones I had this past semester, because it’s the people who form them when you get right down to it, and we’re not all ever going back there together again.
And though that sounds really depressing, I have to look at the flip side of it too. No, I won’t get to re-live the incredible semester I spent in Oxford, but that also means I have a whole life of raw, blank memories ahead of me. I get to constantly flip a new page with new people, places, and experiences on them–while still keeping the former ones intact. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to go back to Europe someday with my family, people I haven’t even met yet, and add those pages to go along with the old ones. And besides, wouldn’t it be boring if our whole life was one long strip of the same old piece of paper? I’m trying to look at the glass half-full, here.
But being the sentimental person that I am when you dig way down deep, it is sad that it’s all over. I learned an incredible amount this semester about history, art, the world, others, myself, and God, and it really was life-changing. Though I’ve always been independent in my own way, I learned a new kind of responsibility in trip-planning and traveling without a parent. I made friendships with people I never thought I’d grow close to and saw real Christianity in vessels I never would have expected. I experienced God’s presence even when I was far from the places where He’s always been present to me, and I was pulled in uncomfortable but necessary ways. It was a semester of much growth and revelation, even helping me realize how wrong I often am and how little I truly know about anything at all.
I already miss Oxford more than I can express and wish I could better express everything that happened in and around me there. But what I can do is be thankful for the time I spent in Europe, the beauty of new friendships, and the ability to come back to old ones in my overwhelmingly blessed life in Texas. I’m one lucky girl with one unbelievable God. And after seeing His splendor in the gorgeous lands I got to visit and His glory in the way He works in hearts and lives, I can’t help but be excited for each new adventure He’ll continue to bring my way.