I’ve lived in Cambridge for almost an entire year, and in about one week, I board a plane to return to the States.
I’m not generally one for sentimentality. I think it’s overused, which robs it of any power. But every so often, my life comes to head with an End, and my heart presses against my chest and I would sell my soul to escape my own thoughts, if only for a moment.
If I were to divide place into binaries, it would go something like this:
Missouri. A place of anxiety & pressure, growing up too quickly, defining myself as the majority’s opposite, not fitting in, closed-mindedness, being boxed in by giant cars and giant houses— unoriginal, utterly stagnant, unhappy Jesusland.
Cambridge, England. A place of growth, self-discovery, self-confidence, friends! (friends with whom I can identify, no less!), non-judgmental environment, walking and cycling everywhere, hard cider, pints & pubs, nightclubs who know their students (i.e. get ready fo’ some Outkast circa 2003), fun!, dynamic students driven by curiosity; one of the only places where I’ve felt belonging. The city where I learned how to enjoy myself.
And let’s not forget the weather: I’ve completely adjusted to the English mindset. The past few weeks have been consistent in their high of low-to mid-60s in Fahrenheit. In spite of the occasional rain, it’s been comfortable. Three weeks ago, when the weather hit a high of 79, I was literally suffocating. How am I supposed to return to the burning heat (& humidity) of southern Missouri, where it rarely drops below 85 on a summer’s day? What a fitting metaphor. Just swallow me up into the fiery hellish temperatures of the Midwest.
Of course, adhering to strict binaries is harmful, and I know that. There are certainly parts about Missouri that I miss. I miss those dear to me, obviously: my friends and my family. I miss spending the summer nights outside, possibly playing a game of soccer in the backyard, possibly staring at the stars and listening to the cicadas chirp their familiar rhythm. I miss the hikes in the Ozarks hills, float trips down rivers, and walks around the several acres surrounding my best friend Sarah’s home. And in general, I miss that wistful American thought that at any moment, you could just stand up, grab your keys, and just drive for days, passing through wide open spaces of desert and mountain, forest and plains. In England, you drive anywhere two hours and you’ve already crossed half the country.
And simultaneously, I struggle with the paradox of change. One reason I have trouble coming to terms with moving back to Missouri is, despite my nostalgic memories as described above, I’ve learned how to move on. Returning seems like taking a step backward; I want to trek on with my life and jump into new adventures. But I still have one year before I graduate, and unless I drop out (which would be extremely unfair to my parents), I have no other choice but to put up with it. After all, one year isn’t painfully long… but then what? If I’m so happy to accept change, shouldn’t I resign my desire to return to Cambridge? Perhaps this time as an undergrad student is limited, and I should give that a fair understanding before moving on. Perhaps I’ll apply to Cambridge for an M.Phil. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try accept my time in Cambridge for what it was and aim for London (my favorite city in the entire world) instead. Maybe I’ll try my hand at writing movie scripts in L.A. I think the only path that would lead to unhappiness is taking advantage of that basement in my parents’ house of Springfield, Mo. It might be strange, but I like the idea of my life being constantly in flux, moving from one city to another, one country to the next. Perhaps one day I’ll have a desire for stability or roots, but I doubt that will be any time soon. The problem, of course, with the wayfaring life is constantly being forced to say goodbye.
So here’s to the future, and the past. Memories and the occasional bit of sentimentality. And most importantly, here’s to Ends… and the Change which follows.