cases, that you this read…

I just want you to know that I know I didn’t wrap things up.

Not that I assume you’ve been waiting a year to find out how things turned out. Even if you had been, there wasn’t much suspense involved. Just a handful of days, a collection of belongings. A plane ticket with an abstractly immovable date and a concretely immovable destination: home.

I fully intended to sum it all up. I’m a sucker for symmetry, for circular paths and, since life is often so gloriously off-kilter and contradictory, at least a little balance in the re-telling. It all began looking forward; why not close looking back?

The longer I look for an ending, the more unsatisfying the candidates become. Did this year abroad end when I packed up my room and locked my door for the last time? Or was it when I was overpowered by the deluge of pure American that assaulted me from all sides upon landing at the Philadelphia airport? Was it the first time I had to look up words that had been coiled, at the ready, for months? The first day back with my family? My first day at Lewis & Clark in the fall?

A year out, the answer is yes. And no.

I often hear, “Not a year in your life, but your life in a year” as a way to think about the complicated relationships that develop during a year abroad. As much as I enjoy (and empathize with) the image of former exchange students repeating “Life in a year, life in a year” as they wrestle with reconciling themselves to the breadth of their experiences, I can’t bring myself to subscribe to it as a useful—or truthful—sentiment. Goodbyes will always be difficult, but if Europe has taught me anything, it’s that we carry our histories with us. Life is really so much longer than one year, and the real, important parts of the German life I was so lucky to live for a time are the ones I carried back across the ocean with me. From one home to another, and onward still.

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