Dammit, you guys, I did it. I blinked. I blinked, and it’s all over. I’m back in the states and happily overwhelmed with the rush of familiarity and the time difference. I’m going to leave you with the last thing I ever wrote in Ireland.
I’m sitting in my gate at Cork Airport, waiting to board my last plane of the semester. (I’ve been on sixteen planes so far, most of them rickety bargain-airline planes, and Meg thinks I’m lucky to be alive. She also loves the consistent turbulence while landing.) Sitting in this airport feels different than most of the other ones I’ve waited in.
Two for the road!
Most of the time I’ve spent in airports I’ve been sleep-deprived, fresh off of three-hour bus rides, unshowered and a little smelly, and sprawled all over whatever floor space I could find. I carried only a backpack and a determination to find adventure and some of the world I’ never seen before.
This time feels different from those times, but similar to another journey I took in January. Meg and I checked into our flight, dropped off our bags, and as I waited for her to buy a postcard, I noticed my knees shaking. My stomach felt empty and queasy, and I might have cried if I let myself.
I felt exactly like I’d felt on my way over to study abroad.
I didn’t get to tell you guys about my trip over to Ireland, but it was a bit of a nightmare. My flight was so delayed that I missed another flight, I lost a jacket, and I was wired the whole time. Like, the entire time. I’m not sure how I pulled off being anxious for like 30 straight hours, but I managed it.
I was leaving home for five months. For the first time ever. I was excited, nervous, and not entirely sure I was going to be able to do it. This time it’s the opposite. I’m a seasoned flyer and I’m going home to everything that’s familiar and the people that I love. So why am I teary eyed and nauseous?
I think it’s because in a way, I’m still leaving home. I’m leaving home to return home, which is confusing, and doesn’t mean that my plane will just be circling Ireland then landing back in Cork again. Between the friends I’ve met and the strangers I’ve encountered and the odd places I’ve fallen asleep (the list is surprisingly extensive), this city became my place.
So now, I feel a little torn. I am so excited for the airport hugs and the catching up and for no longer being a tourist. To hug my mom. To kiss my sister’s little round face. But part of me needs to mourn. I’m saying goodbye to friends, to my little city, and to a lifestyle so unique and surreal that I know it can never be recreated. A little part of me knows that I’ll never get all the way home again. I have two places now. Growing pains, my parents would call it. I had to grow a little to make room for my new home.
So to my friends and family who I’m about to see, I ask for your hugs, but also your patience. Mom, if I’m a little moody in a few days, just lock me in my room for a few hours. I’ll nap and it’ll all be better. I’m still beyond excited to see you all, but I might need a little time to come to terms with the fact that this is all over.
Gone are the days of eating gelato everyday in Greece and Rome, staring up at intricate cathedrals and churches (why is it always the churches that have the most badass architecture? Was God really into flying buttresses?) and being able to run my fingers over the history of cities older than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a tough adjustment, back to reality.
And while there’s been some spectacular views, it wasn’t all about the scenery. It was about the people, in large part. About the Irish history that made its way into almost all of my classes, not because it was on the syllabus, but because I was taught by proud Irish men who couldn’t stand not to talk about their heritage. It was about being uncomfortable and wrong and clumsy. It was about being able to go to a bar and order a beer. It was about getting used to asking for help. It was about being away from home for longer than ever before, and creating a home for myself, from scratch.
So here’s to the end of #hannahandjulieabroad. I know my nostalgia gland is prone to overreacting, but this feels like one of the most bittersweet goodbyes. It’s been real.