In high school, my best friends and I loved to come up with ideal futures and share them with one another at slumber parties. We would list off everything from what we wanted to do immediately after graduation to how many kids we would eventually have. All of our answers were different except for one; we all included traveling the world and studying abroad in our fantasies. Coming from your classic Midwestern small town, we were all enthralled with the idea of breaking down our sheltered lives and moving on to bigger and “better” things. With films like The Lizzie McGuire Movie and What a Girl Wants being at the center of our youth, it was no wonder we romanticized the idea of traveling to Europe. After all, Europe was the home of many of our favorite celebrities, it was the land of falling in love, and a place of heightened history and adventure. All of these facts and stereotypes truly made the continent out to be a magical fairytale land in our minds.
About six years have passed since this moment first took place, and I know fifteen-year-old me would be proud to see that I made my teenage dream come true. However, now that my study abroad experience is coming to a close, I can’t help but ask myself, what’s next? You see, this dream was so important to me that most of my big decisions between then and now have been aimed at how it would affect my ability to accomplish it. Sure, I’ve taken my future occupation into consideration, but it has always seemed so distant. Study abroad was something attainable; something I felt that I could achieve if I worked hard enough at school, and now that it’s almost over, I can already feel the emptiness of the unknown setting in. What could possibly measure up to my time in London?
Obviously, that is a bit melodramatic, but I do feel as if saying goodbye to London is also saying goodbye to part of myself as well. I now need to find something else to focus on, a new dream to accomplish, a new passion to pursue. However, just because I am placing a checkmark next to this task on my bucket list, doesn’t mean I need to cross it out of my life and future forever. I know I will be back in London one day. Whether it be to visit the amazing people I have met, to vacation and once again to be exposed to the beautiful sites or to live and work in my favorite city is still a mystery. One thing is certain, though. No matter what, the lessons I have learned and the life I have lived whilst here will stay with me forever. Saying goodbye is painful, but it doesn’t have to be a completely depressing experience. Over the last four months, London has seen me fall in love, fail, succeed, laugh, cry, and grow up. I have been more vulnerable in this city than I have ever been in my entire life. I have found myself here, and I know that this self-awareness of my wants and desires will only further push me to find my next big goal. The emptiness will not last long, I’m positive of that. As I go into my final three semesters of college, I feel more equipped to tackle tough decisions than I ever have before. Europe might not be a true fairytale, but it does have a suspicious magical element that I will never forget.
Thank you, London.
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Images: provided by author