There’s nothing quite like the surge of nostalgia you get when you realize you’re doing something for the last time. You’re sitting in a booth of your favorite pub surrounded by everyone who means a lot to you, and it hits you that this is the last time that these people will all gather together in this place. You walk down the hill towards the center of town and the knowledge that your trips down this street are limited sits heavy in your heart. You’re at dinner one night and some asshat decides to remind everyone that, guys, this time next week we’ll all be gone and never see each other again! (Looking at you, Zach.)
I’m a very nostalgic person. Hann knows this. She makes fun of me for saving notes and doodles we find as we clean out our desks every year. My family knows it. Hopefully Meg knows it too, because she’s the one who’s going to be dealing with me on my last day in Ireland when I’m sniffling quietly into my pint in the corner of a pub.
Last week Hannah talked to you guys about the feeling anxiousness to get home. I was there a few weeks ago. After the semester-long build up to spring break that coincided with end of classes, it felt like this whole thing was over. I’d done my European adventure. I’d seen Hann. I’d been done with classes for almost a month, so it felt like all that was left to do was go home. I spent hours every day fantasizing about hugging my family in the airport and catching up with friends.
I wanted a fast-forward button.
I blinked, though, and May crept up on me. We’ve entered the beginning of lasts and goodbyes. The last trip we’ll take all together, the last time we’ll cook a family dinner in the kitchen of our apartment, the last cider we’ll sneak into a bar and chug in the bathroom. The lulls in conversation are charged with an awareness that all of this is temporary, and we all look around at each other with big, sad eyes.
All of a sudden I want a rewind button.
I know how foolish it is to wish something this awesome away. It’s almost as foolish as getting so caught up in the nostalgia of leaving that you don’t enjoy the time you have left. Just like every other part of this trip, it’s been a challenge to stay completely in the moment. During my first month I checked the calendar every day, hoping that all of a sudden it would jump a lot closer to the day I got to go home. I spent the weekdays waiting for Friday when I got to hop on a bus and explore a new town in Ireland. Now I’m wincing as the days pass too quickly and the “lasts” start to roll by.
I get a familiar flutter of panic when I realize I’m not truly “living in the moment” as much as I could be. I hear the voices of study-abroad veterans and family friends in my head. Enjoy it while it lasts, every minute of it. If I’m not enjoying what’s right around me all the time, am I doing it wrong? This is something that Hannah and I questioned a lot when we got here, and something we still question pretty much constantly all the time.
I don’t think we’re doing it wrong at all. We realized during one of our Facetime-deep-conversations that perspectives and emotions aren’t black and white. They weren’t at home, and they aren’t here. You can be sitting on a bench in Rome with a cup of gelato in your hands and be in awe of what you’re seeing and feel like you want to curl up in a ball and roll all the way home at the same time. You can be anxious to get home and ready to stay forever at the same time. You can be appreciative and present and homesick and happy and exhausted. A lot of the time you are, actually. That’s not wrong. It’s about time I realized it.
These past two weekends, my friends and I took our last ever trips together as a group. Both involved three-hour bus rides to Dublin in the middle of the night, and no sleep. They were physically draining, but we made every second count. Meg comes out to visit me in exactly one week, and I could not be more excited.
Wound up in the National Museum of Scotland after about 30 hours of no sleep, so of course this happened.