As the month of June gains speed and the days slip away I am reminded of the fact that I will be leaving everything I’ve known very soon. Summer, it seems, is going by faster each day, and as I continue making preparations for my departure reality is setting in. Today, I found out my expected arrival date in Quito, September 19. In 95 days, I will be boarding a plane to move to a different continent: exactly what I have wanted for myself for the past few years. And yet, alongside the excitement that has been present inside me since that fateful day I opened the email about my acceptance into WorldTeach, I can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety beginning to creep into my emotions.
2015 has been a rather eventful year. I graduated from Cal. My cousin got married. My sister is getting married. Another had her first little girl. Two cousins got real, full-time positions as teachers. My grandfather is inexorably on his way to eternal life, if there is one. My best friend got a boyfriend and is moving to London soon. My family members and friends are experiencing major life events all around me and it has me wondering what I will miss in the lives of the people I care about while I’m gone. In the year that I’m halfway across the world, what life-altering changes will be happening at home? How will my relationships with people shift? What if the world I come back to is vastly different from the one I left?
Up until recently, I’ve had no substantial fears about moving abroad. Naturally, there were the generic concerns that come with this type of change, such as making new friends, learning a new job, integrating into a different culture, Rather than fear them, though, I always felt more excited and energized by these thoughts. What a grand adventure it is to move abroad and do something totally different! How thrilling it is to put yourself in a completely new environment and see what happens. I never expected to feel as conflicted as I do in this moment, but it’s difficult to explain the layers of emotions. To say I’m having second thoughts about my decision would be inaccurate. I know deep down at the core of my being that this is something I need to do, I must do, I desperately want to do. It is the culmination of my studies, my interests, my passions. It is a natural continuation of my learning.
But. There is a small part of me that wants something else. A tiny part of me wonders what it would be like to stay in the Bay Area, to continue cultivating my relationships with the people who have become so important to me over the past few years, to fall in love with someone here, to begin building a career and life for myself in the Bay. That part of me is scared of losing relationships and the possibilities of other relationships here. It wants to be anchored, in this place that has captivated my mind and enchanted my senses. It longs for the safety of continuing to be a part of this place I’ve grown to love and this place I hope to someday make my home. It asks the question in a tiny voice in my head, What if you stayed?
That part of me wants roots, and it’s taken me by surprise. Indeed, ever since I decided at 18 that I wanted to move abroad after graduation, I was afraid that relationships would make me want to stay, and I was determined to not let that happen to me. And though there would be nothing wrong with that–desires and goals are fluid and evolving, and one must always be open to changing priorities–I never wanted this to prevent me from doing something so wonderful and enriching as serving abroad in this special moment of little debt and no real obligations except to myself. Why put off dreams for tomorrow that you can achieve today? Yet still, my 18-year-old self was definitely onto something with her worries about moving abroad.
But then I fill out my visa application. I take my new passport-sized mug-shot photos at Walgreens and laugh at how pissed off I look. My cousin tells me at least I’ll scare off the drug lords with a face like that. I request proof of graduation at the registrar. They’ll let me know when it’s done within 6 to 8 weeks. I email an inquiry to a Berkeley language school about observing ESL classes and get a positive response. The questions and doubts subside, gradually dissipating as a renewed, purposeful excitement sets in. All the many reasons I want this flood into my mind all at once and overwhelm all other thoughts. I’m doing this. For better or for worse, I’m moving to Ecuador in perhaps the boldest move of my life. Instead of roots, I choose wings.