“everything is the same, yet everything is so different.”
So is the anthem of this last hour, this last month, and this last year of my life.
After hurdling back to Ohio from California earlier this month, I’ve somehow already found myself sandwiched between the same white-washed walls as last semester on Ohio University’s East Green campus.
The furniture is in the same orientation. The mattress cover and the bedsheets are still the same. Even the clothes, the shoes, the snacks I’ve transported down Route 33 are all virtually the same.
I look in the mirror and ask: “Have I, myself, really changed? After all this time?” The inky edges of my left-shoulder tattoo (a recent, permanent reminder of my summer in Berkeley) and the 50-some photos now taped upon my wall are my only clues as to who and how I’ve transformed in this past summer alone.
It was on the last full day of the National Student Leadership Conference, on the edge of this looming hill I called – and climbed 4 times – “The Summit,” that I whispered these words out across San Francisco’s Bay in the light of the morning.
This gratitude is not without its own beautiful explanation. I said what I said because…
Because I have never been in a place – both physically and mentally – in which I have felt inextricably, uncontrollably in love with my own state of being and my surroundings.
Because I have never been accepted for the person I yearn to reveal so quickly, so effortlessly, and with such satisfaction, nor have I been surrounded by a group of people all of whom I loved so dearly.
Because I have never laughed longer, never smiled with such bliss, and never been as grateful for the chance to live – with abandon, with carelessness, and with passion – yet again.
And now these photos of laughter, smiles, and vibrance fill my head and heart with such an overwhelming sensation that I cannot fully describe it in mere sentences. The tan lines have faded, the people have all retreated back into their own little burrows of creature-comforts and routines, and I am left to wonder at the beauty and sadness that is a human memory.
But instead of these photos merely pinching my heartstrings and sending me into bittersweet flashbacks and recurring bouts of nostalgia, I am leaving these photos up for another reason: to remind myself that the experiences and the person that I loved again (myself) existed.
This summer was not a mirage, nor a Hollywood-esque movie about a lost girl finding herself in the rugged wilderness of California. This is my life, with my trials and my gains, and I simply refuse to revert back to being the same individual I was 4 months ago.
Ohio University has meant to me, in the past 2 years, independence, productivity, and opportunities – but it has also been known to drive me into bouts of loneliness and insecurity that are, I’m re-discovering, always eagerly awaiting my attention.
UC Berkeley represents to me, this summer, serendipity, inner happiness, and cultivating shared experiences with people that matter.
These photos will not only remind me of this inner happiness I discovered, but will also propel me to re-shape my life at Ohio University in these last 2 years – and beyond. Because I was doing fine on my own here in Athens, sometimes even surprisingly well, but it wasn’t enough. Spending my summer at UC Berkley convinced me that I was neglecting an important piece of my transition into enlightened individual: self-love, and love for others.
Yes, I may have a heavy heart (now that the experience of this summer has crusted into a sort of finality), but I recognize that it hurts because I lived thoroughly and hungrily and with my whole heart. And that is how I want – so desperately now – to live the rest of my life. Wholeheartedly.
The world is a magical, mysterious, and infectious place to be – right here, in this moment in time. This summer, in California (not Cambodia) of all places, rekindled my awe and gratitude for living another day, another year.
So thank you. Thank you for following along with this journey of mine. I can’t wait to finally get started.
Until next month,
This post also appears on labellamemoir.tumblr.com