I am one of those people who really hates change. If you know me well, or even just from this blog, you'll know that I love routine, structure and organisation. I like to know exactly what is happening and when, and plan accordingly.
In the last three of four years I have experienced a lot of change, and that change has always occurred at a time when I felt completely happy in my life, so I always feared it. But in retrospect, I have learnt and grown so much from these changes. So much more than if everything had stayed the same.
When I was 17, I applied to the University of Birmingham, knowing that I'd be moving 80 miles away from home to live in a different city, where I didn't know anybody and everything would be different. But by the time I had to leave, I didn't want to. I had a great group of friends back home and at the time I thought I was in the perfect relationship. At 18, I thought I'd found The One and I was worried that everything would fall apart.
When I first went to University, I resisted change. I didn't make a lot of friends in my first semester, I found the workload stressful and my now-long distance relationship was falling down around me. I didn't make friends or have fun because my head told me, well, you have friends and a boyfriend at home, why bother? My first semester was so stressful I considered dropping out.
The second big change after moving away was breaking up with my boyfriend, something I thought I would never get over. Six months of crying, barely eating or sleeping was a small price to pay for the wonderful friends I made over that time. Finally, I was excited for the changes that my second year would bring; living with my friends instead of strangers, going out and having fun, and proving to my ex that I was better than the crying mess he'd left behind. I got a job that summer and worked hard to earn money, and I got a job at my University bar which I absolutely loved (and still do.)
Second year was fairly change-free- until the end of course. When I'd applied to Birmingham when I was 17, I know I'd signed up for a four-year course and a year abroad. When I was 20, this year abroad had gone from "hey, wouldn't it be cool to study in America?" to a close reality. This was another time in my life where I was completely happy, and I knew I had to leave. As excited as I was about moving away, I was also terrified. I had no idea what to expect, and I hated thinking of my friends spending their final year of University without me. I hated the thought of other people living in my house, and my friends meeting new people. I was worried about being replaced. I'd had the best year of my life and now I had to move away to another country for a year.
And then, of course, I moved 5000 miles away from home. I cried the first day I arrived when I realised that this was real; that I was thousands of miles away from my friends and family and anyone that I knew. But apart from that, I don't really remember every being homesick. I was having too much fun. It turned out that change was good. Change allowed me to do new things and meet new people and live a new life. My year abroad has been without a doubt the best year of my life. I've made some of the best friends I could ask for, and I've met a wonderful guy who I love and who makes me truly happy.
But like everything else, it has to end soon. I've always known this, and Erick and I knew this from the start of our relationship. Of course, I desperately don't want to leave. I don't feel ready to go back home, where I'm just me, where I'm not special, where people don't find me interesting because I've come from another country. I don't want to go back home to skype calls instead of cuddles from my boyfriend. I don't want to go back home to talking to my best friend once a week instead of every day.
But things have to change. The fact is, I can't stay here, and as I've learnt from changes in the past, wonderful things can only happen if there is change. I could have stayed at home and not gone abroad, but think of all the experiences I would have missed out on. I could have stayed with my boyfriend when I was 18, but then I wouldn't be with a man who makes me feel complete.
I had to write this as a reminder to myself that change is hard, but ultimately, it's what we need. We need change to grow. And we need change because life would be boring without it. I don't know what I'm going to learn from going home. It might make me realise even more that maybe America is where I'm supposed to be. Or it might make me realise that I really do love my home. I might realise that I want to travel and see the world more, or I might realise that maybe I'm ready to grow up now and get a real job. And as for my relationship, it might make me realise that somethings are worth fighting for. It might help me to learn to be more strong and independent, with us both having the understanding to live our own lives while still being together.
I've learnt this year that nothing really changes unless you let it. I've maintained relationships with my friends back home- sure, things have changed, but I still love them and they still love me. I've become a much more able, independent person and I've learnt to look after myself a lot more. I've learnt to be an adult and deal with my problems myself. And I've learnt that if you really want to be with someone, you shouldn't let the future rule the present.
Whenever I get sad about leaving, Erick always tells me simply, "be happy." Because as much as we chose to accept, or ignore change, we also chose to be happy. I could go home and mope about how much I miss my friends and boyfriend back in the States, or I could embrace being back home and rejoice in the memories I have. I could have gone abroad and spent my time missing my friends back home, instead I threw myself into new experiences and made new friends.
Last Thursday was 6 months since the first time I met Erick, and 4 months since we started dating. It's amazing how things can change in 6 months, and how wonderfully things can change.
I have three more weeks here and I am going to follow Erick's advice and be happy. I am going to appreciate every moment I have left. I am not going to pine for the past, but learn from it and cherish my memories. I am not going to look back with sadness or regret, but look forward with excitement and anticipation. Because things always change, but we don't know yet how.
And that's what makes life exciting.