Is this what adulthood is? Being so startled by the passage of time that it literally makes you dizzy?
I remember hearing my parents refer to a time ten years prior and being unable to fathom having memories that old. And now, I’m still unable to fathom it, but now they’re my memories.
Ten years ago today I got on a plane for the first time, to study abroad.
It was pre-9/11. It was “pre” a lot of things. Everything is so different now – I am so different now – that that makes me a bit dizzy too.
And while I can’t quite understand where ten years have gone, I have never for a moment stopped being so, so grateful that this has been part of my life.
At the time, my closest family and friends were in bad places, and, honestly, making my life a pretty bad place too. I’d wanted to go long before that, but that being the way things were made it that much easier to go. I had no idea what even getting there would be like, let alone what it would be like when I got there. But I knew I had to get out. So I did.
I arrived in Wroxton, England on the 2nd of September, 1999, disoriented and grubby and nervous. And while the 75% of my ancestors who are Irish would be appalled, I think some forebear, some memory in my blood, belonged in the quiet little corner of the world that is the Cotswolds. I felt instantly, thoroughly, at home.
With a whole bunch of strangers who I realized were slightly lost too. With lecture and tutorial and essays after essays and more expected of me as a student than ever had been. With, for the first time, no job.
Where, on the way through the basement with my laundry, I walked through Gothic arches from the 1200s. Where the secret staircase was just a faster way to get to the library. Where there were possibly/definitely/maybe ghosts. Where there were always teatime and pudding, always chairs and windows and corners to curl up with a book, and where my little rooftop room with its deep-set, diamond-paned windows was the place I unequivocally belonged.
Where I had some of my happiest and saddest moments and where I learned some of the best and strongest lessons. Lots about English literature, but more about myself.
Truly, I have never missed anyplace on earth like I miss this place – then, even now, and probably always.
Here’s a PSA. If you’re in school, go study abroad. No matter what. Even if it’ll be difficult financially. Even if none of your friends are going. Even if the idea scares you so bad that you want to throw up. I promise you, every bit of that was true for me, and I promise you, you will never, ever regret it, not for one second.
Some of you know Wroxton, but here are some links if you’re curious. (And I’m sorry if they make you homesick… you know who you are.)
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