When it’s all said and done…

So this is it. The semester is coming to a close. We’re polishing up papers and practicing presentations. A week from today and everything about my Panamanian experience will be all said and done. How am I feeling? I feel accomplished. Studying abroad is something I always hoped I would do during college, and also something I wasn’t sure I’d get the chance/ have the nerve to actually carry out. I feel sad. My once in a lifetime opportunity is over. That’s it. Done. Yeah, I’ll most likely travel abroad again some day. Maybe I’ll be on vacation, or helping with some sort of disaster relief, or for work; but I can say with almost complete certainty that I won’t be studying abroad, and I surely won’t be in Panama with 23 Truman students and two professors studying biology and history, and more importantly, learning a thing or two about life. I feel oddly uncomfortable. Being home is great, but maybe it’s the things I learned about other cultures, my culture, and myself, or maybe it’s knowing that I’ll never get that chapter of my life back, or maybe it’s that I uprooted my life for two months and planting it back firmly in the ground is challenging, but whatever it is has left me uneasy.

Some days I wake up and half expect to walk out into the jungle. Instead I walk my bare feet across my carpet, into my bathroom (with running water! yes thats right, the toilet flushes!), then into my kitchen where I can eat all the not carb food that I wish. I go outside and the world is flat, no mountains here, and I’m back at school. Back to my life. I must admit, I miss not having the excuse of no internet or I’m in the middle of the freaking jungle to use when I’m feeling less than productive. I don’t wish for the life they have, but I can see why someone would maybe pick it over ours. They live more simply I do believe. I really respect this aspect of their culture. The hustle and bustle of the US is great, but overwhelming at times. When is the last time my whole family all sat down together to just drink a cup of hot tea?

I had considered posting what I wrote for our JINS book because that sums up a lot about how I feel about the trip. But since it’s going into a book you’re just going to have to pick one up! 😉 Instead I thought it might be more appropriate to address why being back home has been harder than I expected.

I didn’t expect to have to realize that one of the more important/life changing events in my life was quite the opposite to the people I left behind at home. I mean yes, they all care about me and want to hear about my trip. But to them, the past two months is not something they will remember as epic; what they experienced was simply the absence of me. They are glad to have me home, excited is putting it lightly ;). But their lives didn’t change in the way that mine did, no profound revelations from what I have seen (some things changed {mom, emily, ashley…}). Something about this leaves me feeling a little bit alone in the world, even when some of my favorite people are sitting right beside me.

I also did not expect to be questioning my life. I have all I could ever want, need, or ask for. So why do I have bad days; what gives me the right to ever be sad, feel sorry for myself, take things for granted, or want for more. And at the same time, it (i believe) is completely impossible for any human being to go through life without these emotions. I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and my day automatically gets worse becasue I feel bad for feeling bad. What a viscous cycle!

If I remember correctly, I addressed some of my favorite aspects of the trip in my last blog. Since being home, I get the question, “how was it?!” a lot. How do I sum up everything I learned, saw, felt, experienced, missed, and loved about Panama in a two or three minute response that I am usually allotted? With the end of this life changing experience coming to a close, I guess I could try and sum it up like this: In two months I learned some bio and some history. I wrote a few papers and I took a lot of lizard temperatures. I lived in the jungle in the mountains. I made some good new friends and learned a lot about an old friend. I not only saw, but lived a way of life I had once only heard stories about. I learned many reasons that I am proud to call myself American; and many reasons why I should treasure this privilege. I learned a lot about myself (though it’s possible I came back with more questions than answers). I overcame things (physically – we hiked our butts off some days! and emotionally – frustrations that come with feeling as if you have no control over your current situation ect.). I learned/saw/experienced more in one semester than I thought possible. I went to Panama and came back with an new perspective on the world, as well as my place in it. And as life goes on I keep finding things I learned that I didn’t even realize, it takes awhile to sort it all out. Oh yeah, that’s another thing I learned: life goes on. With or without me, life goes on. Not in theory, for real. How’s that for perspective?

So there you have it. I went to Panama. I came home. And in between? There’s only 24 other people on Earth who know what happened, and only one set of eyes that saw it my way.

  1. #1 by Audra on April 20, 2010 - 10:05 pm

    Oops! I forgot one thing about what I did in Panama: I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE! 🙂

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