8-24-17 | 2:21 p.m. EST
Safely on the other side of the Atlantic, a speedy flight thanks to a personal Harry Potter movie marathon, I’d like to offer some final reflections.
Traveling has the uncanny ability to make me feel both older and wiser, bewildered and boundless. All of my new experiences and sleepless nights abroad came back to me at the speed of the clouds upon our Newark descent.
But once again, just as I felt after 15 hours of Pacific Ocean altitudes in May 2016, I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of gratitude and hunger for the country I find myself (still) calling home: America.
Here, I wake up every day nearly as bewildered as I felt navigating the German public transit system for the first time, considering the current state of political chaos Washington D.C. is secreting.
But importantly, I wake up nearly every day wanting to do my county, its environment, and its marginalized people right. I want so badly to make a difference, make a dent, make it matter, right here, right now, where I know right.
Being abroad indefinitely is tantalizing, like the colorful gelato I scooped in my mouth in Italy (wow, that already feels like a lifetime ago!). But it’s a privilege, and a position I’m not ready to secure for myself, personally. It might sound selfish, but I want to stay in a place where its language and history is not a second-hand skill. I want to do my own business (American ideal), live my own life (American ideal), and protect and cherish the wild, beautiful places on this Earth I have devoted my heart and soul to (in America).
I want science to be my second language.
Being abroad now twice has forced me to claim my nation-state identity upon return, like the German chocolate I claimed at customs. I may gnash my teeth and stomp in the streets, but it’s my right as an American-born citizen to do so.
I’m the mind of a second-generation revolutionary, and I will learn to be a responsible — not unapologetic — American.
I don’t want to sit this game out; I’m here to stay, and I’m ready to play. I’ve been practicing my swing, and I do dance, too, Mr. Lucas Grabeel, because I believe I can, and I will.
Europe was my one-week holiday. Now I’m ready to get back to business, get back on the grind, and start making American environmental history.