Alternatively: Everything I Learned in a Year
I’ve lost track of how many blog posts I’ve written in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, making use of the free wifi and perched on one of the several surprisingly uncomfortable chairs (seriously how difficult is it to source some quality furniture) in between trips. I guess its only fitting that my last one is written here as well. After just under 12 months, 49 weeks, and 343 days abroad its finally time to get me and my big red bag back to the Southern Hemisphere.
In October, I found the first and only journal entry I wrote this year, sitting in Sydney airport and waiting for my flight to the other side of the world. The book’s been sitting on my shelf gathering dust all year, just waiting for me to find a moment to get my thoughts together cohesively enough to actually write something meaningful. Oh well, I feel like this blog has done pretty well. Reading back over the way I’d felt setting off on this whole adventure really put into perspective just how far I’ve come (and how far I have to go) in the space of a year, so I thought it was only appropriate that I share it here.
I called it 1: Beginning and End.
Yesterday I got very very drunk but that’s ok because I was meant to. The hangover today made me pretty impervious to goodbyes and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to tears (Alice), pride (mum) and just an all around general LOVE (mates etc.). It was only when I left Alice at the station that nerves set in the pit of my stomach and I felt like I wanted to throw up (the prosecco didn’t help to be honest…). Thank god mum came with me to the airport otherwise I might have had a PANIC ATTACK just about my 18kg of check in that I was sure weighed over 30! It was only when I went through the security gates that I realised how very alone I was (and how very young I still am).
I’m sitting near my gate now waiting to board and not really thinking too much about where I’m going. I’ve been a little numb all day and I think I hear Katy’s laugh but its not hers and I won’t hear it in person for at least another year. I got a green juice and some snacks of sorts but while I wait for my phone to charge I don’t have much to do except wonder if they’re enough. Not thinking about the plane crashing. Not yet. I’m at 32% now anyway which isn’t nearly enough when its got to last me until France.
France: a dream, a myth, still completely unbelievable but its
getting more tangible by the second god HELP me.
I’m so young and so alone.
Just looked behind me and the queue for my gate is already a mile long, but all the signs for my gate say is Relax. (Also the guy to the right of me is humming under his breath rip).
Do I line up? I’m going to wait for 45% then go. Good plan.
So what’s changed? I’m still young and alone, though slightly less so thanks to the space of a year and all the friends I’ve made along the way. I’m ending this journey the way I began, in an airport with the amount of anxiety that is normal for anyone about to board a 24 hour flight. I’m amazed that I’ve managed to condense my life into 26.7kg to be put in the hold of a plane which will (hopefully) greet me on the other side of the world.
I’ll be honest, the last semester in Reims was also the hardest. Coming off an incredible semester 1 and having found an almost irreplaceable sense of contentedness in the Swiss alps over summer, I returned to France broke, exhausted and not quite ready to meet an entirely new group of people for the third time in a year. I battled the guilt of letting my mind drift more often than I felt it should to wishing that I was back home in Sydney already. The allure of seeing my family, setting up for my last year of university and having an income again was hard to resist, especially on weekends when my mates were off travelling and I remained in Reims on my €10/week budget.
In retrospect, the last semester for me is full of regrets. In saying this, however, I don’t think its healthy or wise to dwell on them. Instead, I’m focusing on the people that I’m grateful for. To Alice and Grace, thank you for a semester of travel stories, late night curries and chats in the library. I’ll always be thankful that I was sitting at the table with you in Bodega when we decided on Oktoberfest. To my godmother, Helen, and Hannah and Rosie, thanks for letting my broke ass come stay over the semester. Your places were a source of comfort and motivation for me and I don’t know what this semester would have looked like without your support. Sometimes you’ve just gotta spend a few days going on walks, making cinnamon buns and binge watching the Great British Bake Off.
I’ve been absolutely blessed in the company that I’ve kept across 2018 – people that have supported, motivated, inspired and loved me. As someone who put herself into counselling for fear that a year away meant abandoning my support network, I could not have been more wrong. Though there have definitely been ups and downs, and I am by no means past that occasional bout of social anxiety that puts me into a sweat, I’m returning to Australia a calmer, steadier and more self-assured person. At the foundation of this change are the positive and supportive friendships that I’ve managed to cultivate in the space of a year. Sure, I may still have the self-confidence of a 21 year old girl but my self-worth has skyrocketed. I am absolutely more assured in the people that I love and the things that motivate me towards a positive future. I’ve changed my degree (cutting a year and a half off my studies), picked up a job in an industry I adore and made plans to live with two people that are not only close to my heart but also make me a better person.
I guess what I’m saying is that 2018 has been a year of change, growth, opportunity and inspiration for me. Which, when you think about it, could just about define any year in anyone’s life. Looking forward, I’m determined not to let the fact that I’m not travelling every second weekend give me the sense that a year spent in Sydney won’t be the same. If anything, I’m returning to a place that so many people I’ve encountered this year have dreamed of visiting, and though making the most of your home city might be somewhat less exciting than an exchange year on the other side of the world, you can only bloom where you are planted.
So for the last time,
Below are my favourite photos from 2018, but if you’re into reading here are some other posts that you might want to check out: