Junior year, the time I went to school from August to June with one two-week break.
Junior year, the six-week tropical spring break and the four-month personal-growth sabbatical.
Truth is, my “junior year” isn’t even over. I am in school until June, doing independent research. But my final exams happened this week, coincidentally at the same time that my fellow Loggers were overdosing on caffeine and challenging the human record for consecutive all-nighters back at Puget Sound. It’s been strange living this second life apart from them, but staying in contact, visiting on weekends, and making plans to return. Since last December I’ve longed to be back there. At my lowest moments on the boat I would think ‘why did I leave’? And I guess I still do. But Puget Sound is packing and leaving, they are finishing another year, some of them finishing forever. And I’m on the outside, looking in on that closure.
I do wonder how things would have been different if I hadn’t gone “abroad”, if I hadn’t left just when I was starting to feel comfortable in my department, just when I was living on my own and making my own stability, just when I finally felt at home at UPS. I dunno, I guess I would be different.
Since I’ve been gone, I’ve imagined Puget Sound as some static and preserved relic of my past life to which I can simply return and resume. In part, that’s what kept me going through the tears and the storms and the seasickness, and the identity crisis. If I just made it back to Puget Sound, to 1409 N. Alder, to my bedroom, everything would be fine again. I would be happy again.
But I don’t even live in that house anymore. When I go back on weekends, sometimes I stop by to get stuff out of the basement storage, and there is someone else’s stuff in my room, someone else’s food on my shelf.
What my life was, what I was last fall isn’t there anymore.
I suppose this feeling of erroneous nostalgia is telling; I haven’t felt this way since leaving Alaska for college, secretely hoping to just be magically plopped back into my high school life, where things were familiar and secure and understood. (don’t worry, that feeling ended after about second semester)
The nostalgia proves that my time at UPS was an era in and of itself, something to be missed and longed for. But it also highlights that I was getting secure, sloppy, suffering from content-with-high-school existence.
Thus, I am honestly glad I went and cried in a shower in the middle of the North Atlantic gyre. I’m glad I was scolded at 3 am in the middle of a storm for not wanting to wear the tutu. I’m glad I blew hot dog chunks out my nose onto a Portuguese man of war in the water below.
I’m not sure quite yet what they were, but good things came of all of these “bad” ones.
I look forward to returning to Puget Sound, but it won’t be the same, and I won’t be the same. Enter cheesy cheesiness about changing for the better. But really, though I understand that this blog entry is particularly depressing and personal (since I recently found out that at least two Puget Sound professors read it), I guess my point is that being “abroad” has been good, in the summary sense.
And lest you be left with the notion that I am currently a moping bundle of pathetic (yeah, I like to use adjectives as nouns), I’m actually quite content with life right now. It’s spring in the San Juans and I spend my days chillin’ with professional scientists. This is a time in my life I will look back on and long for, but I can only hope the challenges continue.
On a different note: one of the questions on our exam today was ‘who would most likely volunteer to eat gooseneck barnacles for lunch on a class field-trip to the intertidal’? I believe I won myself a new superlative.
Don’t worry, most of the questions weren’t that easy.