After two straight weeks of backpacking, I now sit in one of my favorite Oxford bookstore/cafes mulling over the fact that a) I still have to sort out a few errands before departing for London tomorrow, and b) my time here is sadly nearing its end.
I’ll write another blog posting about my short backpacking stint, but now’s not the time. I will say, however, that shortly after my time in Berlin and Prague, I found myself missing Mother England more than ever even while traipsing through various bridges, basilicas, and old Roman monuments in Italy. Yes, I realize how terrible that sounds.
But I missed the cold. I missed my face getting chapped by the freezing winds, and happily layering up in my black puffy jacket. I missed hearing the English accents that have become more familiar than my own, and using currency with the queen on it. I missed drinking tea, instead of coffee (which I drank to keep myself awake whilst traveling). I missed stumbling into a picturesque park on my own and watching the sun start to set. I missed the familiar habit of wandering aimlessly into a vintage shop or bookshop with no intention of buying anything, but being intrigued by the prospect of owning an old-school hardcover of Sherlock Holmes or some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. I missed sitting in the “Harry Potter corridor” of New College listening to the wind rustle through the tree branches. Perhaps most of all, I missed the quiet pleasure I had in an environment that forced me to dwell in my own thoughts, away from the chaotic normalcy.
I’ve never been the sort of person who absolutely NEEDS to be surrounded by people 24/7 in order to be happy or to function properly. I get my energy both from good company and solo reflection time, in healthy amounts. Fortunately, Oxford provided this healthy balance. I wouldn’t say that I learned the MOST about myself while here, but some of the self-doubts I did harbor have been diffused the longer I was confronted with my own thoughts, values, and beliefs.
For example, being in such an academically-invigorating environment could be mentally and emotionally exhausting. I may never be as smart as some of the native Oxford students here. I may never be able to force myself to like political debates. I may never understand economic news headlines. I may never find interest in devouring an entire book list of philosophy writers. But what I do know is that no one can compete with what I can do for other people. There will always be someone smarter, stronger, more attractive and witty, but no one will dare be able to compare my contribution to another human, or deem it not “good enough.” I don’t need to impress anyone – okay, so that might not be completely true, but I don’t need to impress EVERYONE…but if anyone ever gives me the impression that I need to, this person is obviously not worth a moment in my thoughts.
While at college in California, I’m careful to differentiate between my on-campus apartment and my actual home in my lazy beach hometown. But on our flight from Rome to London last night, I caught myself saying, “I’m going home to England!
Of course I’ll be happy to roll up into the driveway of my brick-orange house. There are definitely aspects of American/California living that I have been separated from for far too long – like to-go coffee cups that AREN’T the size of Dixie cups, NOT having to use the public buses to get from place to place and NOT having to pay a whole extra pound for “eating in.” And obviously there are people like my dad and close friends whom I haven’t seen in ages whom I greatly look forward to seeing again.
But the fact that I let the word “home” slip while casually talking about Oxford/England/United Kingdom means quite a lot to me. I have indeed felt at home – maybe not in a familial sort of way – and I cannot resonate with the idea of my United Kingdom chapter being over once I step foot into Heathrow Airport. I’m not totally sure if this is just another case of juvenile-ish post-study abroad mentality, or if this seemingly insuppressible feeling that I’ll be back is indeed valid.
If home is where the heart is, my heart has been divided multiple times and set in the places that have me counting down the minutes until I can go back. I would say I’m soon to be homeward bound, but I think I’m leaving one for the other.