18 March, 2013

What Hurts the Most

There's a country song that goes like this:

Every now and again I pretend I'm okay but that's not what gets me.
What hurts the most, was being so close. 
Still harder getting up, getting dressed, living with this regret.

Last Monday my study-abroad experience ended with a whimper. My re-entry debrief occurred at 4 PM at the International Program Center at UNCG. I walked in, sat down and my grades from Brussels were slid to me across the desk like some legal settlement, like the Devil asking me to sell my soul. I peeked out from one eye, cringing, and looked at the offer. A semester of travelling across Europe, drinking beer, and volunteering left little time for studying. I expected Ds or Fs, after-all that's what I deserved. I think I had already accepted that was okay. After all  the lessons, and language skills I gained outside of the classroom changed me more than any semester ever had, but it was the people and the professors who formed those experiences. As I glimpsed at the signature of Dean Mosselmans, a name I missed seeing, I saw a transcript of A's and B's.  I'm still not convinced I deserved any of it. 

I ran my fingers across the paper and the ink, hoping to touch something of Brussels one last time, as the woman in charge of the delivery asked "is everything okay?". "Yes", I replied without much thought as I believe I saw a red tail wag with content from under her desk (she's honestly a wonderful person, I'm simply implying I felt like I had sold my soul, and now payment was due). I was advised how to move forward academically, then handed a letter I wrote to myself some twelve months earlier. I laughed as she handed it to me:
Dear Liv,
Bla, bla, bla, bla...  
My biggest fears are, that I’m “past-my-prime”, or that despite my best intentions, that I won’t be accepted. I fear that I won’t have the ability to live up to everyone’s expectations, or that I’ll walk away from this experience with more regrets. I worry that I’ll come home to a world in which I can no longer fit into, having seen and done so much- or that I might actually not want to come home, and that doing so might break my heart.
Bla, bla, bla, bla... 

What a load of horse-shit is that?  Let me tell you, the entire letter is complete crap. I wouldn't have sent my ass anywhere based on that "the world is rainbows and fluffy bunnies", let-the-experience-change-me letter. How about a warning to myself about how my life would be completely fucked when I got home? How I feel like a tourist in my own country now, and that I generally can't wrap my head around Americans anymore? How about how I miss the sounds of the Metro, the  laughter of the people I used to know, or that I miss the other "me" so bad that I'm driving myself insane trying to forget all of it? How about despite living everyday in Belgium trying to prevent regrets, I'd be too blind to see the biggest effing regret coming, and I'd run head on in to it? 

This is where you should stop reading if you know me personally.

A regret that everyone around you is responsible for participating in. You let them guilt you into the idea that this is all you deserved, that going abroad was such a burden upon everyone, and I accepted that my happiness was negotiable. So yes, I boarded that plane back to the States on my own despite a thousand opportunities where I could have cut and run (though didn't), but, no one tried to stop me. No one said "maybe you should stay?". I certainly don't have any justification to blame anyone but myself, but you knew what you were doing, just as all of us know when "we trust in prayer" and pull the plug, it's really our decision (*you in a more general sense). Even in the moments that led to my return, I considered the possibility of trying to stay, but the consequences were set by you, and despite what everyone knew what I needed, everyone chose what supposedly was "the right thing to do". Now the "right thing" doesn't feel so right, and here I am sitting in an office in Greensboro, looking at my grades, and the woman beside me is asking me "do you have any regrets?". "No I reply lie. It was the most amazing time of my life." (which was the truth)".  I mean what right do I have to complain? We shook hands said goodbye, and I stood and began to walk out the door. Then I stopped, turned around and said "that's not entirely true". "I'm sorry?", she asked. "I have one regret...". 

So this is it, I don't plan on writing much after this. Writing means one of two things: either I write stupid anecdotal experiences void of emotion, or I write what really happened. Words have consequences, and I imagine just writing this will be enough to hurt someone, somewhere. This is why I can't write anymore. I can't bring myself to hurting people with the words I write, and the truth is if I were to say what really happened in Brussels, then I'd just disappoint all of you. 

The truth is, I had the chance of a life time, and was given the opportunity for more, but I cared more about what everyone else thought than what I thought. I thought that all I deserved was one semester, I never thought I deserved any of it. In fact, in the letter I wrote:
I’ll admit, I’m scared of the idea that I've committed myself to something I’m not worthy of, and that I’m grossly unprepared for, or even too old for.
What the hell? I climbed fucking mountains in Spain, I conquered Rome, I reveled in Poland, I passed out in Amsterdam, I spent two years of college to get to the place I knew I belonged, and I just walked away, because I was told I didn't deserve anymore time (whose the fucking sheep now, Liv?).

...and that's the truth, and it hurts like fucking hell. I had probably the most amazing study-abroad experience out of all my peers, I lived legends, it was utterly epic, and in the end I boarded the plane home because I didn't feel I was good enough to be there anymore, and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. I was this close, and that's what hurts the most.