“Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” -John Wayne
The Red Line is zipping past Lake on its way to Monroe. Three young people board and stand close to my seat. Over the rumble of the train and the din of its passengers, I catch a few syllabals of their conversation. I hear a Oui, an Est-ce Que. and that characteristic Air instead of R sound. Excitedly I lean closer so I can eavesdrop on their conversation.
Then my heart starts to pound. They are speaking quickly in an accent I do not recognize. Though I understand a few words here and there, it might as well be Greek. Anxiety strangles my throat, and all I can think is “Oh my God why am I doing this?”
In 24 days I leave for Paris. I speak only the most basic French and I know no one in Paris outside my host-family. I have to condense my whole life into a suitcase and a backpack. I sit on the train and listen to this rapid-fire French, and I panic.
This fleeting panic has visited me a few times. When I start to get nervous, I remind myself that the anticipation of a new adventure is the scariest part. The moment before you receive a shot is worse than the needle. The pit in your stomach when you stand on a diving board is worse than the jump. Its the second before you walk onstage when your nerves are at their peak. But you breathe, you jump, you make your entrance, and you’re fine.
With so little time left before I leave, I’ve started to feel pulled in all directions. My excitement to arrive is mixed in with my anxiety about leaving. There is a lot that I will miss while I am in Paris. Three of my best girlfriends will be married in the next year. In Paris, I won’t have easy access to my parents and sister. I won’t have my huge network of high school friends and theatre friends to tap into. I am trying to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible before I go. As a direct result, I’ve been sleeping a lot less. I’ve already said goodbye to some friends. Its an odd feeling to know I won’t be seeing them for at least a year.
Perhaps the hardest part about leaving will be saying goodbye to the families I’ve worked for the last two years. Friends and family are in your life for good, but the bond you have with a child when you see them everyday is something that only lasts as long as your time with them. I find myself feeling guilty for taking even a single day off of work when my time is so limited. I want to soak up every smile, every laugh and every moment with these amazing kids.
The next year is going to be tough. I am sure I will feel homesick, frustrated and lonely at times (and I’ll write about it all here!). Still, I know this is the right path for me. I am confident I will adapt and meet these new challenges with humor and optimisim. Over the last year I’ve become complacent, and I need to get out of my comfort zone to figure out whats next.
From moment to moment, I can’t tell whether I want to hop on the next flight or handcuff myself to my doorknob and never leave. Regardless, I’ve got a one-way ticket to Paris on August 23rd.
My wonderful friends are throwing me a going-away party at Lotties Pub on August 9th. Come out and celebrate! Click the link for details.