We have grown accustomed to a certain type of life. A life where movement and stillness meet and where unbelief is a constant state of being. This life will certainly not continue for very much longer after we return home, and it is surely a condition we will rarely experience again. It’s something like jet setting, but then again it has a component of comfort and ease accompanying it, a factor of gentleness and quiet which is not part and parcel of continual vacationing. This is something quite different. This is living a special type of life, a life of few worries and of great wanderlust. An out of context and out of body existence wherein anything is possible at the end of the next week.
Each weekend we find ourselves dropped into states of childlike wonder, sitting for long stretches in the mighty aura of the Swiss Alps or walking for hours on the unmarked trails of foggy islands. We make it our custom to create habits in the brevity, to find rhythm in the arrhythmic, to make mundane the extraordinary.
Simultaneously everything seems both so ordinary and yet so spectacular. Like a second night of fireworks.
Jordan pointed out to me as we were gliding along the Ligurian Sea in the 45’ sailboat on which we spent fall break that our lives are “all down hill from here” which in some senses is quite true. It is very unlikely that I will have a substantial chunk of time and money with which to travel this extensively at any point in the near future, and even if I were to have such means the x factor of this semester has been the uniquely wonderful group of people whom I have been able to share these travels with; no amount of money is going to recreate that once it’s gone.
However, in a turn of blog-worthy dramatic irony, Sarah and I had a very similar conversation just one week previous about the exact opposite topic. We were walking, dare I say escaping, from the
hotel hostel dump that we inhabited during Strasbourg week. (Note below the five-star location with easy access to many industrial warehouses and the highway, perfect for a clientele of truckers and vagabonds.) She had been commenting that after such an experience as sleeping in the F1 “our lives could go no where but up.” Our careers, no matter how unsatisfying, would certainly offer us a greater degree of comfort and satisfaction than this.
It is at least very interesting that two people could vocalize two perfectly conflicting statements which are simultaneously so very true. But this is the paradox of study abroad. It is the perfect foray into the world which we are about to dive headlong into 18 months hence. It’s like the very rich and wonderful sample platter I had at a restaurant in Florence last weekend.
For a jubilant hour after Sarah and I realized that our lives were headed no where but up I rejoiced in the fact of the matter, and for a despondent week after Jordan pointed out that this was where we all peaked I wallowed in self pity.
And then I realized the paradox of study abroad, which is really the paradox of life.
That yes, sometimes it seems it can’t get better and sometimes it seems that it can’t get worse but always either very possible. I have no ability to predict the next ten years and therefore I have no need to be concerned about how it will be. I can guess that I probably wont be on a boat in the Mediterranean with friends any time soon and I can guess that I probably wont be staying in an F1 brand Hotel if I can help it, but, then again, if this semester has taught me anything it’s not to be surprised by the serendipitous, not to write off as impossible the merely unlikely, and above all things to empty myself into the present because the one thing I do know is that it is all I have for sure.