I’ve avoided writing about any difficulties I’ve faced since leaving for this nine-month trip around the world. So much so that I’m not really sure where to start. I think I’ve avoided it for a few reasons. Writing publicly about my feelings is, quite obviously, a lot more personal than simply summarizing the events that have taken place over the past few months. It’s something I’d rather journal about and keep to myself. I also don’t really like the idea of writing about people who I know might read it. It creates the need for explanation. And sometimes I just want to feel something, not necessarily have to explain or justify those feelings along the way (it’s also because I’m a chronic people-pleaser; that’s a whole other problem I’m working on). Lastly, I fear people will think I’m ungrateful for the opportunity I have here. Like I’m focusing on the wrong things. And that just couldn’t be further from the truth.
But, I think it’s important to stop romanticizing my experience on here. It’s not easy all the time. And though, hands down, this was the right decision for me, it is life. And life comes with challenges and obstacles, no matter who you are or what you’re doing.
I’m in a unique situation. Every day I’m with the same seventeen people while we hop around the map, seeing new places and learning new things. And though we meet new people in every place, we are always together. It’s almost too easy to know everyone’s business, even when you try hard not to. Solitude is almost impossible without people wondering if you’re okay or need anything. And we’re always on the go, so exhaustion has become a permanent side effect at this point. I don’t know, are you pleasant to be around when you’re tired? With that exhaustion comes a bit of complaining, wishing maybe things were a little more like home. It’s easy to all of sudden miss the very thing you left, even if you left for good reasons. And complaining, well, it happens. We complain to fill a void and sometimes it’s necessary. I guess it is when it becomes excessive that the energy of a place can turn sour. And it will really eat at you after awhile.
I have like a 5 second rebound rate. My brother can tell you that. I can get really amped up about something, complain hard for ten minutes, and be completely over it in two. And I know not everyone is like that, and not everyone needs to be. But, complaining only gets you so far. If a system needs to be fixed, it needs a solution. Not a bunch of people beating a dead horse.
What I’ve noticed lately is a lot of negative energy that stems from some seriously valid points (like not being told there isn’t an ATM at a specific partner, and consequently having no cash to purchase anything for the next ten days), but it snowballs into a much larger, unsolvable problem – a nitpicking of sorts – that kind of sucks people on board (oh yeah, I don’t like that either kind of thing) with no helpful suggestions for an actual solution. It turns into complaints that, I don’t know, shouldn’t even be made in the first place. But, by that point, you’re just trying to find something to complain about. I find myself being sucked into it. It’s draining. Draining to the point where I kind of lost it today and felt very disconnected from the group for the first time.
And unfortunately, that isn’t the worst part for me. The negativity has multiple people talking about not returning after the winter break. Essentially, missing the bulk of the program, where we travel to South East Asia and Europe. This boggles my mind. It actually makes no sense to me and I wonder, am I not compassionate enough to understand this perspective? Or is this really as ridiculous of a concept as I think it is?
The first thing that comes to mind is the monetary value of an experience like this. Though scholarships were given (which is someone’s money, if not your own) the trip is still expensive by anyone’s measure. And if you don’t come back, you don’t get a refund. By blowing off the remainder of the year because it wasn’t what you expected or you aren’t getting what you wanted tells me a couple things: a lack of commitment (no one said this would be easy) and the value of a dollar (even if it isn’t your own dollar, which in my eyes is worse).
My mother chose to take from her retirement savings to help me fund this trip. I have no idea how I will ever repay her for that. All I know is I wouldn’t dare quit. And if I’ve learned anything from this experience so far, it is how much I appreciate what my parents have given me. Because, holy shit, they’ve given me the world. I grew up thinking things like braces were the norm, no question in my mind that I would get them at some point. How naïve of me. And when I stopped wearing my retainer and my teeth moved, my dad never said a thing.
I have a few things to say to those who think leaving the program is their solution. First of all, I don’t think you actually want to leave. I think you say it when you’re upset and you want someone to take you seriously. I think you’re looking for validation from others that you are meant to be here, which you shouldn’t need but you do. And lastly, if you do choose to leave, I think you will regret it for the rest of your life. And the entire point of this trip will be completely missed.
Because Winterline, in three short months, you’ve given me something incredibly special. Something I can’t quite articulate yet but know I will carry for the rest of my life. And the best part is that I know we’ve only just begun.