Happy end of May! For most adults, this is just another month in the endless, daily grind that is adulthood (a.k.a. having a full-time job). But for a small percentage of grown-ups, and the majority of youth in the U.S., the end of May is only the beginning of…
Cue BBQs and pool parties in a suburbia backyard, neighbors gathered around, eating off of paper plates with abstract watermelons prints that will soon be buried under the earth for a later generation to discover. Be ready for the endless heat. Roll the clips of crowded “tourist destinations,” that make the locals roll their eyes and take the shortcuts through the back alleys.
But most of all, be ready for the sudden flood of students, whose excitement will quickly be replaced with apathy, creating the classic lay-on-the-couch-in-front-of-the-TV-all-day-while-adding-milk-to-chocolate-cereal-to-make-chocolate-milk-Calvin-style teenager so feared by– well, those who value productivity.
For many of my friends, summertime means
- summer school
- camp of some sort
- a period of boredom.
For me, summer is the start of
a. one of the most commitment free times of my life = free time!
b. traveling to see my family
c. number one again
But it also means something really big:
I’ve made so many great friends at school this year. To try and name them all would be pointless, because with every person who attends my school (CHS) comes also at least one good memory. I rarely have conflict with other people, especially those who I see every day. Therefore, I can say with complete honesty I consider myself on good terms with almost every single person at CHS. That means I have a lot of people I’m going to miss.
A lot of people I’m going to miss terribly. Deciding to leave to spend my junior year abroad means that all of the juniors I met this year will be gone when I come back for senior year. When I return, my high school’s roles will be filled with the current 7th graders, 8th graders, freshmen, and sophomores. All my role models will be gone. Heck, I’ll be a role model!
The debate on whether to go or not was one of the most difficult inner conflicts I think I’ve ever faced. After all, this decision was going to–this decision will–reshape my entire life.
And I admit: there was a time, a few weeks ago, when I realized I did not have to go. Nobody was forcing me into it. My family had already paid a $900 deposit, but I had enough money to pay them back.
Was I about to make the biggest mistake of my life? What if my host family hated me? What if I just couldn’t learn spanish? What if something happened back home and I wasn’t there, or even worse, what if it happened because I wasn’t there? What if everybody else had a great time here, the best year of their life? What if I missed the best year for the U.S.? What if Panama’s economy collapsed while I was there? What if I looked like a fool? What if, what if, what if what if what if! All of these doubts were racing around and around in my head until I almost went to tell my parents I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave my school now that I had just put down roots. I couldn’t leave my best friends in my community, never to live near them again. I couldn’t leave my brother and sister without a big sister for an entire year. I just couldn’t!
But something stopped me. (Pride, maybe.) I sat down. I thought about what it would really mean to stay.
What would it be like to wake up in two and a half months to my regular alarm clock? To get up after hitting the snooze button a few times. To take a shower. To go downstairs and find breakfast cooking. To get into the car with my dad for the ride to school, discussing my expectations for my first day as a junior. I would go to my classes. I would meet my familiar teachers. I would glance at my friends, already feeling like I didn’t have a proper group I belonged to. We would get our homework. I would probably be feeling cheated and alone, so I’d take the 3:14pm bus home, or maybe the 3:28pm. On the bus, I’d read or listen to music. Then, I would walk the familiar sidewalk from my bus stop, across the street, down the road, to my house. Probably, I’d have some behavioral guidelines for my parents and I to sign saying I’d be sure to be a good student.
I could pretty much plan out every bit of my day. The only variables were the things our teachers decided would benefit us later in life, and therefore were thrown at us. That would change on a day-to-day basis. But it would always happen somewhere between 9am-3pm, in the same time blocks as before.
I realized something then. I would be absolutely miserable if I didn’t go. Not only because I had had an opportunity and I had ditched it, but because things weren’t going to change just because I had decided to stay. Friend groups would still require effort, and my classmates and teachers’ ability to read my mind would not change from nonexistent.
My mom once said something about… well, I don’t remember exactly what she said. But it made me think this: If I stay here for my friends, I will constantly feel that they’ve disappointed me because they’re not the (for lack of a better term) “white knight” friends I had been dreaming about. Guess what– my friends are human! They’re going to have their own stuff to do. So will I. And as much as I dislike admitting it, I know that if I stay, I’m going to subconsciously blame them for the loss of expected experiences in Panama.
After all this reflection, I came up with this:
“I’m not sad because I’m going. I’m sad because I’m leaving.”
This may seem like the same thing, but to me, they are two very different ways of thinking. This saying has helped me a lot to sort of group my thoughts and remember that my feelings of loss are normal.
I decided I had to go, even if it were just to follow through. I hope that this account of my inner conflict will help you with any you might have.
What does summer mean to you? What has been a major inner argument for you lately?
Have a great summer,
P.S. Spanish Update: El desierto es extremadamente caliente durante el día y fríopor la noche. The desert is extremely hot during the day and cold at night. A simple sentence, but one of the first I’ve easily read and understood. Which made my evening.