September 05, 2009

Like An Open Book

I've recently come across two pieces of writing that really spoke to me.  One relates to who I once was, and the other to who I want to be.
Looking Back...
 A group of us enjoying the rarely spotted
sun in front of Bath's Royal Crescent
I spent the Spring of 2003 studying with 3 other UVa classmates in the small but beautiful town of Bath, England.  I won't go into details, as I'm sure I'd only be repeating the same annoying stories and antecdotes that your friends who spent a semester abroad spewed upon their return.  Suffice to say, it was quite possibly the most exciting and fulfilling experience of my life and most definitely helped to define the person I am today.  Which, when I originally signed up for the trip, was exactly what I expected.  What I didn't anticipate was how hard it would be to return.  I couldn't quite explain my feelings at the time and I still struggle to articulate how and why I felt the way I did during the months after my return home.

Fortunately, Erin, in a guest post on the blog Lost in Translation, did it for me by describing her return home following a year-long teaching assignment in the Burgundy region of France.  The entire post can be found here, but I've included an excerpt below that I feel perfectly mirrors my experience after I returned from England nearly 6 years ago.

The return, I think, is the most startling part of living somewhere apart from friends and family. And for me, being apart from my friends and family wasn’t half as difficult as coming back to them. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to come home, or that I didn’t miss them--I did, sometimes terribly. Rather, it was that I had existed in a world that, try as I might, I couldn’t quite manage to share. They could not conjure the smell of the small épicerie that I frequented on my walk home from teaching—a combination of fresh produce and dusty boxed crackers and stale cigarette smoke. They didn’t know how the plastic bus seat felt as I made my way to school in the morning, or how the gravel crunched under my bike tires on my rides through the vineyards. They didn’t know the weight of the skeleton keys I carried in my pocket, or which way to turn the key in the lock so that the portail would finally open, couldn’t hear the squeak that my shutters made as I pushed them open each morning, or watch the way the reflection of the morning sun in my neighbor’s window changed with the seasons. Returning home brought the realization that as much as my life was shared with the people around me, the experience, ultimately, was singularly my own—perhaps not a true revelation, but one that I hadn’t fully grasped before. 

Looking Ahead...
I found Laura Munson's story via one of my favorite blogs, In(side) the Loop.  I was struck by her maturity and sense of self, both of which gave her the strength to weather a personal but all-too-common crisis in her marriage.  Munson responded to her spouse's despondence with patience, support, and love.  I only hope that I, too, can one day learn to shelve my pride and respond to those I love in such an unselfish and thoughtful way.

If you haven't read either, I would highly encourage you to do so.

[Love quote from The Rockstar Diaries]

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