As I sit in my old room back in my home town in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, I’m struck with a feeling I have never in my life felt before. When I arrived home from Sweden, I felt as though I was never really there. I could swear that I had simply woken up from a dream and that none of it was even real. Even right now I am sitting here trying to think back to the times I spent in my little apartment staring out my window at the beautiful scenery. I try to make myself feel how I felt the times I would ride my bike through the center of the city and pass the castle as if it were a normal thing. I try to envision myself being around the friends I had made and the times we would hang out and laugh. And though I can remember it, I feel as though it was such a distance memory, not something I was just experiencing a week ago.
This feeling is making me realize I spend too many of my days thinking about the next day, or things in the past, rather than living each day and appreciating what a gift it is. Recently I’ve been feeling like time is flying by and I think it’s partially due to the fact that I haven’t truly appreciated the time I have spent already. There’s something so beautifully eye-opening about traveling to a different part of the world and I feel as though I took it for granted.
I even feel differently about myself since I have arrived back in my hometown. Before I left for Sweden, I didn’t have the best self confidence but I spent years trying to be sure of myself and back in March, I honestly felt that I was. Once April came around and we started our lives abroad, I started to realize… I’m not shit. I came from a town where everyone knows literally everybody, even in surrounding areas. I came from a town where if I went out in public, chances are I would run into someone I knew. For some reason, I feel as though this gave me some type of mindset that I actually MEANT something. When I was in Sweden, not only did no one know me, no one gave a shit who I was, quite honestly. Other than meeting friends through the people we would meet during the duration of our stay, there was no “Oh you know this person and that’s how I know you” type of situation.
At first, this was kind of a blow to my already weak ego. There were no other people to make me feel good about myself because I felt the comfort in the fact that they KNEW me. I had to rely on myself. In a way this was also incredibly refreshing. Everyone I met didn’t have some back history on me that was probably construed from the truth anyway. No one cared about how I was connected to people, they only cared about who I am. I realized how judgmental I had been my entire life, which is truly saying a lot considering I thought of myself as one of the least judgmental people there is. Swedish people didn’t judge me for the way I talked, the things I said, the way I dressed, or what I had accomplished so far in my life. They only cared about who I was at that very moment and how I treated them.
I learned all that and so much more. I learned to not stress over such minuscule things; I learned that sitting around gossiping about people isn’t an effective or healthy way to pass the time. I learned that I can rely on myself whenever I feel alone. I learned what true friendship means with those I left behind in the States. I learned that my family is such an amazing support. I developed such a strong bond with my boyfriend that I feel confident will not break. I developed a sense of myself and what I’m capable of.
Despite all of this, I still can’t believe I spent the last four months living in a different country. I still can’t grasp the fact that I ACTUALLY traveled to Italy, a life long dream of mine. I can’t believe I was in Prague and taking in all of the beauty and culture. I can’t believe I was so blessed and lucky to be able to do all of it. Each day I convince myself that it wasn’t just a dream, and that yes, it is a memory, and it is the best damn memory I have to this day.