I wanted to do this year abroad because deep down I didn’t want to do it. Or, in simpler terms, because I thought it would be hard. I’ve developed a liking, maybe from 6 years of competitive rowing, to doing things that are hard because I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction after, which can be both a good thing and a bad–it gives me more self-discipline, but it can also lead to me doing things that don’t really benefit me for the wrong reason. So, when I was given the opportunity to live and work in Brazil for eight months, my first thought was, like many kids, wow, that sounds scary but my second thought was, but think about how accomplished you’ll feel when you’re done! I literally went into this year thinking about how nice the feeling of coming home would be.
I didn’t really get the point of this bridge year abroad until I recently. Before I left I rarely imagined myself actually having fun or really enjoying Brazil all that much, which is hard and embarrassing to admit, but true. Instead, I predicted myself missing home and crying every day and then having the best feeling in the world when I finally came back after eight months. There is the cardinal difference between the way I thought then and think now: I signed up for this program because I wanted the feeling of when I was OVER (kind of like a hard race), and now I realize how much fun I can have when I’m in it.
I was nervous about coming here for a multitude of reasons, but I recognize now that one of them was that I was afraid of the change I was constantly promised and anticipating. I loved my family, my house, my friends, my routines, my town, and one thing I’m happy about/don’t regret is that I was able to realize this before I left; this summer was one of the happiest times of my life and also filled with gratitude and love. I remember thinking to myself at Pre-Departure Training, I don’t want to change, I love myself and my life the way I am now and I just want to blink and have the next 8 months go by. (Side note, it’s been four and it feels much longer than a blink, but in a good way.)
One thing that is nice about getting further into my bridge year and closer to the time I go home is that the possibility of me or the people and things and places I love at home changing drastically goes down. I can more and more realistically imagine myself greeting my parents in the airport and crying and coming back to my house and running to jump into my old bed and having my friends come over and hug me and hug me and hug me and know that it really is going to happen so much sooner than it seems. Because I’m over halfway through, I can now tell myself that I’m going to see these people and things sooner than I said goodbye to them. In a way, that’s a nice mindset–it’s useful and comforting when I’m really, really missing Nyack and it also makes me realize how much I love and treasure the people at home.
But I’ve found that, like in all things, there can be a balance. I can miss home and think about how long it is until I get home without sacrificing experiencing all I can in Brazil (which I used to stress about all the time), but more importantly, I can change positively as a person without the things I love and cherish so much about home and, frankly, myself, disappearing. And that balance feels so, so right, and makes me happier than ever about making my decision to take a pause before college.