So it’s been nearly six months. And what a fast six months it’s been. I still feel a pull in my chest when I think about Denmark, but I can go days now without thinking about my exchange. A lot of times it doesn’t feel real, the people and the experiences are just figments of my imagination. I don’t look through my pictures as often anymore, my scrapbooks and journals are long since packed away. I am fully immersed in my life in Canada. I like to think that I’ve done a good job of moving on.
However, while I think I am finally in a place where I can say that I have moved on, I know that I will never move past Denmark. Because, how can I? My exchange is in the past, but the people I love will never be behind me.
To my host families, I know I am horrible at emailing. I told myself I wouldn’t be, but I am. But you wouldn’t believe how often I talk about you all. I cannot drink tea without thinking of my first host family. I don’t think I even drank tea that often in Denmark, but I now associate tea with a cozy evening with my first family. I’ll be talking, and I’ll hear myself saying, “My host mom this,” or “My counsellor that,” People ask me if I miss you guys, and I can never make them understand just how profound that yes that I reply with is.
I found that I had to distance myself though. Hanging on to something that is over was too sad. I aspire to reach a place in my life where I can look back on it all and smile, and be content. Right now I run between each extreme, wrapping myself in my flag looking at pictures and crying, or pretending that Denmark never happened. And in finding the happy medium, I feel like I have lost contact with the people from my exchange. I get so caught up in trying to remind myself that the experiences are over, that I need to remember that the people are still there, and we can still be a part of each others lives. My new years resolution for 2012 is to keep in better contact with everyone, because I don't think you will ever understand how much you all mean to me, and how sad it makes me to think of how long it's been since I've seen or spoken to most of you. This goes for my friends and my host families and everyone else from my exchange life.
But it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten, or don’t love and miss you all. It doesn’t mean that at all.
While all of you are moving on with your lives, I am too. But life back in Canada is not what I had thought. I was honest in my blog all throughout my year, so I suppose I will be as well now.
Sometimes things happen in life that are so beyond your control. Sometimes things take over you to the point where you have lost all sense of what makes you, you. That’s what I am struggling with right now. I have lost myself and I don’t know how to get myself back.
I joined swim team at school because I wanted desperately to be in the yearbook, and swim team is the only school team that allows everyone on, no matter their ability. You’d be amazed just how calming it is to be under water. And I’m skiing again, which feels amazing. The kids I work with are so adorable, and it’s so fun for me to see their love for skiing develop.
The next few years are uncertain right now. Plans are changing and things aren’t the same anymore. And as someone who craves control over her life, the uncertainty is brutal.
I am at a new school, trying to recreate myself, although that is proving difficult. Moving schools, I've learnt, just like travelling far from home, does not change who you are. Where ever I go, there I am.
Sometimes keeping quiet and just blending in is the best way. I don't always need to be talking, just listening is okay now too. I still have the eye of an exchange student, seeing things in ways that my peers don’t. Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m just a tourist in the this city, another one of the inbounds, and that I’ll be going home to Denmark next summer.
People ask me if I knew way back then where I would be right now, what I would be facing, and the challenges I would be dealing with, if I would still have gone. At first I had to think really hard about it, if it was all worth it, but now I answer with a yes before they even finish the question.
You see, sometimes it’s so easy to just see the negatives. The words don’t exist to explain how amazing my year was. How much I learnt and how much I grew. I was profoundly happy in Denmark, but below all of that, there was something buried. I’ve rewritten this paragraph over and over because I feel like I either give out too much information, or nothing at all. But I realized now that I am writing this blog mostly for myself, and therefore I don’t owe this post anything more than just saying that something happened in Denmark. Unless you are my family, host or Canadian, or my closest friends, then what happened is irrelevant. I am including this paragraph only as explanation for why I currently have such mixed feelings towards Denmark, and why life back home is so complicated.
While I am not going to say anymore, I do feel the need to say that it was in no way related to my host families or Rotary, and I get really defensive when thats the first thing people assume. But I have to remember that while yes, one really bad thing happened, hundreds of amazing things happened, and I can never forget that.
But despite all of that, I wouldn’t have stayed back in Canada. I wouldn’t have given up the experience that I had. I would never in a million years have given up meeting my host families and amazing friends. Sometimes I have to convince myself harder, but I know that it was worth it.
It’s easy to blame Denmark for all of this. It’s easy to say that I wish I had never gone. And maybe it’s true, maybe life would be easier now if I hadn’t. But I can’t help but think about everything I would have missed out on, and to think that there’s no way I can ever wish it away.
I left a part of me in Denmark, but I know that while I can’t see it today, and I might not be able to see it tomorrow, that all of the stuff I gained makes up for it. And maybe one day I'll realize that I did not in fact lose anything in Denmark, and that I came out of everything a stronger person. It's hard to see clearly now, but I have to believe that I'm going to come out of this not only okay, but better than I was before.
Because, this too shall pass. And once it does, I will once again be left with the amazing memories from what I still do believe was the best year of my life. Six months later it's still obvious that the friends I had in Denmark were the best friends I will ever have. The days and nights we spent together were some of the best in my life.
Despite all of this though, I do feel the need to add that generally speaking, I am doing well. School is hard, but I love it. I have some really good friends, and it's exciting to finally be grade 12 -- top of the school. I love being involved in school teams and clubs like swimming and other volunteer opportunities around the school. And despite being at a new school, I am so grateful that I am still close with all of my friends from before exchange. I like working again and earning money, and I love the freedom of being home and not having to feel guilty about hiding in my room, or going out with friends. I got my graduation photos taken last week, which I have to admit was beyond exciting. I felt SO grown up in my cap and gown. You'd think that all of these setbacks would have convinced me to take an extra year to graduate, but no sir! I am as determined as ever to walk the stage in May. I have my gown ordered and everything.
I still have my hedgehog, Chompy, and I love him to bits.
Last month I visited Emma and her family in Boston for Thanksgiving, and it was so amazing to see her again! I swear it was like we had never been apart. It proved to me that we really will be best friends forever! (Corny enough?)
So while yes, I am facing some pretty major challenges in my life, there are also good things. They may be small, but they motivate me to keep chugging through.
My exchange is long over, but life is still going on.
I learnt a lot, and I still am.