Sunday, July 10, 2011

Before France #2: The Art of Leaving

I've been thinking a lot lately about my exchange, trying to get my visa, and all that. I'm also trying to start a relationship with my first host family. All of this has made me think about leaving. Just the act of picking up a suitcase and not coming back for a long time. I, as I'm sure many people that are my age, have had this dream of taking a backpack full of one's prized possessions and leaving. Leaving your house, family, friends, your whole life. I don't know why but it's always a feeling I've had, since I was a small kid. I want to always keep moving, sort of like a shark. In the movie Up In The Air there is a line that goes: "The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living." I feel this to be true. If you're not moving forward, you're not doing anything at all. I really like being in airports for this reason, the mystique that surrounds a place where people are always moving, going forward. These people move in straight lines, an orderly fashion most of the time, trying to be as efficient as possible. All these lives and stories gathering in one location but very few are shared. This all amazes me, but it's just a way to romanticize travel.
I've been living in the United States for almost eleven years and as my exchange approaches I see it as my next big move. Eleven years ago I came to a country whose language I did not know how to speak, who had different customs, and didn't really have anything I really wanted. I was moving with my parents because of course they aren't going to leave me and they saw this move as a game changer, the same thing millions of other immigrants have dreamed America to be. In about a year I learned the language, the culture, and how to enjoy myself here. But in recent years I've been getting anxious, it's been way too long since I've felt completely out of place, not knowing anything about anything. I feel that if I get too comfortable I will never achieve things I want to do. So I see this exchange as my big game changer, my chance to redo everything I did a few years ago but this time with a job and minus the parents. My job is to be an ambassador, and I like that. It gives me a purpose, a reason to be there. I know more French than I knew English when I moved here, so thats a plus. There is another feeling in me, one that enjoys that I now can manage myself very well in the U.S. Almost my whole family has moved to the U.S., all my friends are here, and a lot of good things happened in the past year. This year was a good year because I feel like I finally know what I'm doing. But then will come that fateful day that I leave all of this behind, this control that has taken me   almost ten years to learn, and I like that.  I am moving forward, knowing that there are rough roads ahead of me. I can't wait.  For most of my friends and schoolmates it seems that they see my leaving as if I were falling off the face of the Earth for a year and then coming back. Some of them have expressed a want to do a foreign exchange but there are things stopping them from doing it. Family, friends, and school. They don't want to have to go through rough times without their families and friends. They are also afraid of falling back in school, and I don't blame them. As I'm doing all of these things to get ready to leave all of this comes to mind. I think this is why foreign exchange students mature four years in the year of their exchange. We leave the safety and comfort of our regular lives in search of something new, each with their reasons. For some it's to learn the language, other's to see the world outside of their hometown. For me it's the urge to keep on moving, to see life in as many ways as I possibly can before I can do it no longer. I want to learn as many languages as I can, experience as many cultures as possible, and see as many extraordinary places that people could only imagine. I know it's going to be tough and there will be times I will want to come back but that's all part of the experience, right? It's getting through all that that seems to make the experience enjoyable, which I have gathered from listening to the Rotex's stories about their exchanges. As the date of my departure approaches the mix of happiness and fear becomes greater. I see leaving no longer as an action, but art. A thing that is done sometimes with little knowledge of it's subject or where it's headed but after it's all said and done, you step back. You look at the thing you've created, the person you've become. And you smile.


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