Posts Tagged ‘the end’

The End Has No End

18 August 2009


Who procrastinates this much on a blog?

I guess I was struggling to find a way to sum up this whole experience with the perfect balance of poignant/nostalgic/witty…but anyway, since I’m going back to New York City for my senior year (whole other issue right there) I thought it was way past time to close up shop here in Londonland.

Without further ado, the final entry:


I wish I could say I went abroad because of James Joyce.

It was last summer. While reading Dubliners for my Facebook book club (kids these days, right?), I stumbled upon the following line: “But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” The quotation took a moment to sink in. When it did, I jumped up, Eureka style, and announced that I too must go abroad to seek these adventures!

But that would make me seem a lot more whimsical and spontaneous than I am. In reality, my decision to study abroad was carefully orchestrated, beginning in the previous December (now we’re way back at the end of ’07) when I negotiated with one of my co-workers to cover my Resident Assistant position during the semester I’d be away. Still, I have to give ole Jamesy some credit. It’s rare for one particular sentence to leap off the page and resonate so profoundly with me. But for an English major, relevant reassurance about The Future from a book is kind of a big deal.

That’s not to say my life was completely lacking in adventure. I’d already lived two and a half years in New York City, spending the school year 1000 miles from home, mostly on my own. But this was different. Studying abroad meant going to another country, across an ocean and five time zones. “Oh it’s just England,” people told me. No, it’s not “just England,” as if the same language (give or take a few oddities) somehow makes it less of a different country.

In January, D-day finally came, and abroad I went. The experience was beyond incredible. You know. You’ve been reading along. I travelled to ten countries and took 5,134 pictures (supposedly worth a thousand words each, but even that would hardly do it justice) over the course of the semester. There is so much beauty and wonder in this world, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have seen just a fraction of it.

After five months, I came back with tea in my suitcase and “God Save the Queen” in my heart. I suffered immensely from the phenomenon known as “Reverse Culture Shock.” I talked with an affected authentically acquired British accent. I scoffed at crude Americanisms like “trash can” and “bathroom” and “sweaters” and “tennis shoes.” I unfurled my British flag and hung it in the living room. It was still there on the Fourth of July, and the family told me that no, it was not appropriate to fly as a substitute for our lost-in-the-depths- of-the-closet Old Glory, nor was it appropriate to wear as a cape in the Independence Day Parade in Geneva, FL. Oh well.

Of course, I’m exaggerating (what? Leonore? Exaggerate? never.) But only a teeny bit. When I came home, as absolutely delighted as I was to see my family and be in my house and snuggle with my kitty, I missed England something awful. It was an experience, a time, a feeling, that I will never be able to recreate. Pangs of nostalgia hit me pretty hard when I went to see the latest Harry Potter film. Hannah had to restrain me a few times while we watched the camera pan through London. If she hadn’t been there to enforce my maintenance of decorum, I might’ve jumped out of my seat shouting, “I’ve been there! I know that train station! That little English village is just like the ones I visited!”

I spent 149 days in England. It’s been 73 days since I left. Sooner rather than later, I will have been gone more days than I spent there. In that perplexing way that time works, it seems simultaneously like I just left, and also like it was so long ago that I was never really there at all.

Returning to Real Life has been a hard transition. After what was essentially a five month vacation (with classes and appropriate amounts of, ahem, Learning) returning to a job that I did two summers ago seemed like backsliding. Hadn’t I grown, matured, changed, and travelled the world? How was I supposed to fit back into this normal life that had continued even though I was gone?

And then I think of another quote that’s had an disproportionately profound effect on my life:

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

—TS Eliot

Here I am at home again, where I started, and this is another adventure: trying to find the new in the familiar, the thrill in my every day life. It means responsibilities and obligations carefully balanced with hopes and memories. Life is full of beginnings and endings and beginnings again, and learning that is all part of the most important adventure: growing up.

England, this is not the end. I WILL be back. Just like The Terminator. Except you can call me the Englandator.

From the tops of Cathedrals in York and Paris and London and Milan and Rome, to underground catacombs,
From the Highlands of Scotland to the seaside in Brighton,
From the Moors of Charlotte Bronte to the grave of Jane Austen,
From the Western Hemisphere to the East,
From the Thames to the Seine to the canals of Amsterdam and Venice,
From Inverness to Nice, Madrid to Venice,
From the slope of the Alps to the Mediterranean coast,
By way of trains and planes and taxi cabs and The Tubes and subways and trams and busses and funiculars and a river boat and a ferries and my feet and even a horse…

…It was an Adventure.

And James Joyce? You were right. I had to seek it abroad.

Cheers, England. Thank you so much for everything.