Here I am. The final destination. Eastern University, St. David’s, Pennsylvania.
This time last week I was flying across the Atlantic Ocean, awash with scores of feelings that can’t exactly be named. My heart was soaring, I was unsure and apprehensive, I was so tired, I felt unbelievably full. Full of feelings and emotions, of course, but full of gratitude and experience and life. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so alive. Exploring the Louvre in Paris, sipping mulled wine in the Market Square in Bruges, getting caught in a blizzard at the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, gazing in awe at the ruins in Rome, and being overcome with laughter as Madrid lit up at night. What an absolutely unbelievable adventure.
And here I am, back in the place where I came from. Already the to-do list is long, the number of pages to be read inordinate, the number of assignments overwhelming, the amount of music to be learned pressing. Here I am, once again, at the start of a semester. I meet the freshman girls on my hall, I sip endless cups of tea while writing endless emails, I walk the ways I walked for two years and will continue to walk for one and a half more. And I am different, and the place is different, and it is all so much to get used to. It is still cold up here, the bridges are still slippery, the dining hall cashier still remembers my name, and there is still a beautiful Steinway piano stuffed away in a kitchen in the music building. But life has continued on for me and for everyone else during the fall, and the small differences that I mark add up to make a big difference.
I stop in to chat with professors that are actually dear, cherished friends of mine. We talk about my travels and about poetry and God, and I am thankful for this place where I fit, this place I can call my own, where I’ve learned and grown. I rejoin my chamber ensemble for the first rehearsal of the semester, and something in me buoys when we sight-sing a hymn in four-part harmony. I make up new words like attackle, and then I attackle friends with hugs when I see them. I read what other friends have written, and I critique it when appropriate, and sometimes I edit it, and sometimes I am moved to tears by it. It is beautiful, because they are beautiful. The people here write beautiful things, let me tell you.
It is the second day of the semester, and though it is strange to be back, I am deeply grateful for the people here, the people who make up this little gem of a college, the people who have made me who I am. I am grateful to sit in a room with a group of students and to talk about how philosophy and love are expressed through the narrative form. To sit in another room with another group of students and discuss the effects of colonialism on women, and what the novel can tell us about the experience of being a woman in a postcolonial country. And another room where I can barely keep up as we dive right into Hegel. I am so lucky to be here and to be taught by these professors, to learn alongside these students and to be in such a community of inquiry as this.
It is a comfort, and it is a blessing, and I have “seen the world,” and I feel a happy ache. Perhaps the warmest comfort of all, accompanied by such visceral missing, is that I can leave one place that I love and return to another.