A tiny disclaimer: I am, in fact, back from Middlebury Midsummer Spanish Bootcamp ’09 and at this point I speak neither English nor Spanish. Life is fun. Writing is even funner.
It’s 2:39 a.m., I have a 7:30 a.m. goodbye breakfast date with a friend, and I am thoroughly nauseated and sleepless. My insomnia has nothing to do with the blistering heat we Nutmeggers experienced today, but instead with the fact that I’ve realized, quite suddenly, that in less than 36 hours I’ll be leaving home, and I don’t know that my heart is ready.
I’ve abandoned West Hartford for Spain twice now (thrice if I count that January vacation) and each leave-taking has been different. This time, however, is the first that the going feels legitimately hard. I’m lucky: I’ve never been very attached to places, but I do get terribly, terribly wrapped up in people. Last time I went it was Greg I missed most, Greg I cried about the hardest when I got on the plane, and Greg was the first person I called when I touched down in Barajas. I realize now, without him, that missing him was a sort of shield. When I started feeling melancholy tonight I tried to recall, at first fruitlessly, what it was I did last time before I left home and how I coped with the tumult. Belatedly, somewhat guiltily, I realized that I was sharing my bed with Greg and fretting acutely about what would happen to us when I left. Longing for him helped me block out everything else I was leaving, and later, everything I’d yearn for in my moments of loneliness in Madrid. As such, when I left in 2007 I spared few thoughts for my parents, my friends, the cats and my home. This time, however, without one towering figure to assign my longing and all of my love, I’m forced to miss everything, and I’m a little overwhelmed.
I think that once upon a time I used to be braver than this. Over a short five years I’ve grown less emotionally hardy, yet more simple, more full of love and less afraid of expressing it. I think that they’re linked in a way: I no longer associate showing love with needing to be brave. I’ve come to understand that love just is, and one can just give it without the condition of being ready to be shut up, shut down, shut away for doing so–no pre-emptive distancing and wall-bulding necessary. Maybe this is just what happens as we get older? Maybe we’re distilled into a nutritious concentrate of self, stripped of all of the self preservation, fake sugars and non-essential elements, but stripped too of fear of being seen, of being vulnerable, of being loved and wanting/expecting to be loved in return. Perhaps I’m less brave now, but I’m more fearless.
Tonight I’m overwhelmed, then, but I’m not afraid. I’m awake now to feel this house around me, to listen to the fans rattling in my windows as they try to clear the muggy Connecticut air, to think about hugging my mother in the morning and how she always knows exactly, often maddeningly, what I need. I’ll think of my father and how we’re never so amicable as when we’re apart, but how I’ll miss him anyway and wish that I’d learned more things from him when I had the chance. I’ll think of the friends I’m leaving here, of my alma gemela, Katie, of Irene and the friendship I treasure, of Nichole and how much I adore her good, freshly-broken heart, of Amp and Lourdes and the baby, of Lepak and Porto, and Ben and Jilla, Louisa and Jenn, Joe and Suzi and Bruce; I’m thinking of Charles and Talia and Jon, Ryan and Em and Kolie and all of the people I don’t see nearly often enough but love no less for it. I miss them, and I will miss them, and I don’t know when I’ll see them all again. This time I’m not sure when I’ll be back. I can’t promise Christmas and I can’t promise June. But Jesus, how I love them, and dios how I hope I’ve done a good enough job of letting them know.
Maybe I’m not brave, but I’m also not afraid. I know how to love and be loved back, and maybe–romantically, ridiculously–that’s all I really need.