How Preparing to Move Overseas is Teaching Me to Live in the Present
“They say you never know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
Unless you’re leaving. And you know you’re leaving. And now your whole world is viewed through the lens of “leaving.” Temporary. Changing. Seasons. Impermanence. And therefore you know exactly what you have before it’s gone.
And then everything you see becomes different. It’s like you’re graduating, but you’re not. Graduation is one of life’s “next steps.” Moving overseas for a semester feels a little like you’re still going, but you’re moving at a diagonal compared to everyone else’s vertical. It’s knowing that you’ll leave and things won’t be the same when you come back. You’ll miss graduations, weddings, birthdays. Roommates change. Organizations change. Families change. You’ll change.
Sometimes it feels melodramatic. I find myself gazing wistfully at the town’s water tower, at squirrels chasing each other across carefully manicured school lawns, or my favorite couch in the coffee shop I visit all too regularly. Even the step where I stop to tie my shoe holds a special place in my heart on the grounds that I will not step on said step for at least another 8 months, if ever. I’m coming back. So it shouldn’t be this big of a deal. But I know full well that everything will not be the way I left it when I return.
And in some strange, bittersweet way, that allows me to appreciate the now. The knowledge of its approaching end makes me capable of living in the moment. I have often found myself looking forward to future events. But I no longer want to escape from my present. I don’t “just need to make it to Thanksgiving break.” Or, “If only I can survive finals.” Not even, “Man, am I ready for the weekend,” which is often said on Mondays. I don’t want to wish my life away. I am in no hurry for the “next.” I have today. I want today.
Sure, today has finals. Today my car has to go to the shop and my paper has to be written. But today I ran into a friend on the way to class; we got to catch up. Today I got to drink coffee. Several cups. Today I took a walk because the air is crisp, and as its own miracle, the leaves have changed colors on the Texas trees. I don’t have to wait to move across the world to live life.
And that starts with a contentment in being here, in enjoying the fact that I am exactly where I am exactly when I am and wishing it was a different place or different season would not serve to do anything but detract from the moment that is now. I would hate to find myself overseas only desiring to come home already.
Today, I can choose to talk to the person next in line to me at Starbucks. I can tell the girl with beautiful hair that her hair is beautiful. I can buy chocolate cake for breakfast if I want to. I can wear heels to a casual outing. I can run the extra mile. I can dance to the music playing in my head. I can do karaoke with strangers. I can stay up all night to watch the sunrise. I don’t have to be in Europe to learn to live freely and openly. I can be exactly who I want right now. Each day, each moment holds its own choice.
Choose to be present.