The End of an Era: My Pre-Departure Feelings.

John Spence - Ecuador


August 18, 2014

Things are terrifying right now. Not because by the end of the month I’ll be in a foreign country to stay for eight months. Not even because of all the dramatically different potentially more formidable challenges I’ll face over the next year. No, things are terrifying not because of the new things ahead but the old things I’m leaving behind.

While throughout my school career I’ve prided myself on striving to be a model student, through my first two months as a full time “fellow” I’ve proven consistently disappointing. For the past four years in school, missing deadlines killed me. Yet only two months into my heretofore disappointing gap year career, I’ve managed to miss about every deadline they’ve assigned me. What’s gone wrong? Where did my work ethic go? It would be easy to blame it on every student’s summer lethargy, but upon deeper reflection my real problem is the fear.

Every time my phone vibrates twice in quick succession telling me I have a new email, I know it’s probably from my program directors informing me about an upcoming assignment or resiliently riding me to complete an overdue one. In other words, I know it’s a work email; I know that just like school used to call, now my gap year responsibilities are calling, and it’s my self-chosen job to step up to the plate and answer. But, unlike in school when I routinely came through, this summer when I feel those two little buzzes inside my right front pocket, my heart sinks a little bit. I know that every step I take towards being a fellow further cements my impending separation from my old life. It’s that separation that terrifies me.

Taking a glorious plunge back into children’s literature a couple weeks ago, I read a series of books where in the end the protagonist triumphs in every way, but he has to leave everyone and everything he knows behind. I cried like a baby. August 12th, August 18th, August 20th – these are the dates that my friends and I leave to embark on the next chapter of our lives. These are the same friends that I’ve had for years, the foundations of my support system, the cornerstones that I’ve built my life around. And, the thought of leaving them behind for eight whole months, reduces me into a blithering mess. What scares me isn’t the inevitable explosive diarrhea, sense of alienation, or any other daunting new challenge I’ll face next year. Honestly, those things excite me more than anything in recent memory. What terrifies me is leaving behind my friends, some of whom I’ve had for thirteen years. So, recently, whenever I’ve felt that telling buzz of an email in my pocket, I associate it with my steadily approaching departure and put it as far out of my mind as possible.

Well, it’s time for me to stop. It’s time for me to start achieving again, and – believe me – as motivated as I was to succeed in school, it pales in comparison to the mounting wave of determination I feel to open this next chapter of my life with all the vigor, hard work and passion that I have at my disposal. With fewer than fifteen days left to make up for my disappointing start as a fellow, fewer than fifteen days left with my friends and family, it’s time for me come to terms with the end of my current era. There will be tears. Boy, will there be tears. But in fifteen days I’m going to fly to California, sad for sure, but ready and excited for the next chapter of my life.

John Spence