One of the most common questions you get asked while on your year abroad is; how will it feel going back? When are you coming back? Are you looking forward to going back? It wasn’t until very recently, with my ‘going back’ dawning fast, that I started to feel how inadequate these questions are.
When I left Manchester and university last year to come abroad my life was completely ideal. It was full; it was crazy, it was happy. I was surrounded by more wonderful people than I ever had been, I felt connected to so much, I felt that timing and life had fallen into perfect step for once and we were all dancing along merrily. Time was racing because everything was so perfect. I was happy and settled in my house, completely besotted with my Ultimate Frisbee team and my wonderful friends and really enjoying Manchester life and my university course. I was also very excited to go abroad – no doubt – I had everything ahead of me.
This year has been a rollercoaster – and one without tracks, breaks or a sane engineer at that – in terms of emotions, learning curves and changes. At some point on this insane journey it clicked in my head that there is no such thing as going back. There’s just…not. A large portion of the people that made my last year in Manchester so perfect have now dispersed and moved on to fantastic new things, the group I was living with are spreading out, the team has had complete plastic surgery and I won’t know half of them, and even bits of the city have had some cosmetics slapped on.
If what you are looking forward to is in the past then you have a serious problem on your hands. I realised I had a serious problem on my hands, because what I wanted to go ‘back’ to was no longer there, I would find myself standing in an empty warehouse with the lights on wondering who killed the party. For a while this made me feel completely lost, I felt like moving forward was taking me further away from my perfect year and everything I had wanted. It took me quite a while to realise that this was a) inevitable and b) a really positive thing. I had a wonderful year in Germany and now people are asking me that question more and more frequently; are you excited to be going back?
I want to tell them, or to try and explain but I don’t seem to have the words, that there is no going back. It sounds like a great cheesy line in an action movie but it’s a line that will pass through everyone’s head at some point, in one form or another, when they contemplate time and life. This constant moving forward we do, more commonly known as ‘life’, means that there is never a backward step, you can’t get back to where you were before – not in a relationship, not in terms of a point in life, not in an emotional sense – you’ve got to make something brand new. Everything is brand new. You can’t recreate the past either, don’t make Jay Gatsby’s famous mistake of thinking you can. It sounds depressing when you first think of it but try seeing it in a new way; it just means you can’t take back the lessons you’ve learnt, or the amount you’ve grown, you can’t take back any friends you’ve made or laughs you’ve had. Looking at it that way it seems pretty good me.
So no, in answer to your question, I’m not excited to be going back to the UK and my family and friends. I’m excited to be going forward, to the UK, family and friends, in whatever shape or state I find them in. I’m also excited for whatever extra is crouching in the near distance waiting for me and I’m no longer sad about walking on from the best year of my life so far. Here’s to more best years.