University was challenging emotionally, physically and academically. When I finally graduated in May, I convinced myself that the only way I could take back all the strength I had lost during my four years was to empty my bank account while backpacking Asia. I was ready to buy a one-way ticket to Singapore and end up 6 weeks later in Laos. My plan was all laid out and I was ready.
Except, the first friend I ever made in America and arguably one of my closest friends was getting married in the middle of summer to a boy she had loved for a long time. Suddenly, my post-grad summer wasn’t just about me. It became a push and pull between what I thought was important and what really was important.
At the time, the only person that mattered was me, and so I bought a one-way ticket to Madrid and well, you all read about that here.
It wasn’t until I was in Greece, alone and battling with the hypervisibility I was facing in Athens and on the islands that I really took a step back. I was angry at myself for my poor planning skills and highly impulsive decision-making that left me stranded in a racist country in Europe instead of hiking in Vietnam (which might be equally as racist but probably makes up for it with fantastic food and excellent nature hikes).
And then one night my friend, Marisel, texted me about her wedding dress fitting in Chicago. My friend was getting married. I was toppled over by my emotions when she asked if I wanted to come along with. Of course, I wanted to–but I was in Greece. I had spent half my summer debating whether I should ever go back home before real life begins (my full-time job in Zambia) and here my friend was, preparing for one of the best days of her life–a day that might only come around once.
Then and there, it hit me: what I found most important in my life wasn’t seeing the world all by myself. Yes, I love seeing the world and experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime-awe of being in a place for the first time while being surrounded by strangers who have no clue what kind of person I was or will be. I love the rush of learning how to eat a new dish properly and how to say ‘hello’ in a new language. I love being stuck at train stations after midnight because I didn’t research enough to know that not every city operates like New York. I love flirting my way out of trouble and back into trouble. I love planning my budget trips which always involve hopping from one town to another. I especially love making friends who will always have my back even though they can’t pronounce my last name. I love it all.
But not as much as I love the people who come together to make my life what it is.
Needless to say, I was in Pennsylvania within two days of speaking to my Marisel, and by the weekend, I was at her bridal shower.
I recently watched my friend get married to the love of her life and I realized that no amount of Pho could fill the void I would’ve created if I chose to be alone on an island instead of being at her side on her happy day.
And I wrote this blog because I finally found my way home.