The Emotional Experience of Leaving Home

It may not hit you while you’re packing. You may be too overwhelmed to focus on anything but the stress (especially if you’re like me and you wait until a few hours before it’s time to leave for the airport). It may not hit you when you say goodbye to your pets. It may not even hit you when you say goodbye to your friends, family, and everyone and everything else important to you. It may not even hit you when you get through security and you’re all alone, when your mom isn’t there to hold everyone up looking at trinkets and plane snacks at the newsstand, your dad isn’t there hustling everyone to the gate, and your sister isn’t there making rude comments about it. It may not even hit you when you board the plane. 
That’s because making such a huge decision to leave everything comfortable behind to embark on such a huge journey isn’t as easy of a choice as it may seem. It may seem like a no brainer: who wouldn’t want to move to a brand new country for several months or (in my case) a whole year? It’s the opportunity of a lifetime! How could anyone ever be anything less than absolutely 100% excited about leaving?

I struggled with the idea of leaving for a while. When I’d first found my program, I’d wished I had the ability to speed up time so that I could be in Canterbury immediately. I was full of all of these different daydreams and big ideas of where I could travel to on weekends and the types of things that I could do. I was very much wrapped up in the whimsy of it. Going away for a whole year seemed like an automatic choice. 

But it’s funny how making the decision to change your life can make you realize just how good it is in the first place. It was as if the second I’d been accepted to my program, someone flipped a switch and suddenly my best friends and I were closer than ever, I was able to get more involved on my home campus, I was given more serious responsibilities at work, and all of these exciting events began getting scheduled for after when I’d depart. Not only that, but the at the very same time, the whimsy started to wear off and I realized the amount of details that would need to be handled and how much work would have to be done before I even set foot on a plane. There were moments where it almost felt more worthwhile to stay and keep my life exactly as it was. 

A lot of that had to do with fear. Here I was after 21 years being handed a completely fresh start in a country where I knew no one and no one knew me. Thats super intimidating and so rare. I could be literally anyone or anything I wanted to be, and there’s no one who knows me around to contradict me. 

Then as time went on, the fear and anxiety faded into a whole lot of nothing, mostly because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact of it. 

It didn’t hit me while I was packing. I’d hoped that seeing all of my things packed into suitcases would make the situation feel more real, but really I was just panicking about the 50 pound weigh limit. It didn’t hit me when the car pulled away from my house and I rode down streets I could navigate blindfolded for the last time in 10 months. It didn’t hit me at the airport when I waved goodbye to my mom and sister and disappeared into the TSA security checkpoint. I thought that officially being on my own would make me feel alone. 
It finally hit me at 26,000 feet above the ground when my overnight flight finally caught up with the daylight. I pulled up the shade on the window and when I looked down I saw England sprawled out below me, and it finally hit me that this was home now. This was a very real thing that was happening. I no longer cared that I still didn’t know anyone or couldn’t use the metric system and had no idea where to buy a hairdryer. All I knew was that I would figure it out.

As I sit and type this in my English bedroom two days and 4,000 miles later, I can promise that the fear and the anxiety and the doubt do go away. Those clothes you packed will feel slightly unfavorable. Those same old roads will be replaced with new ones to explore. There will be so many new friends and so many new names to learn that you definitely won’t feel alone. 

It may not always feel easy, but I can promise you it’s worth it. More to come, stay tuned. 

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