I spent the fall of my junior year abroad on the other side of the world. I left behind someone I loved with the fear that that goodbye might be forever, feeling as though I’d given us up in exchange for something that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted. I saw the pain in my grandmothers’ eyes as I visited her for the last time that summer, knowing that my visits eased the discomfort that the MS caused her. She looked at me walking out of the door like she was losing me in the same way that she was losing control of her fingers and her legs, losing faith that she would ever get us back. I watched my little brother fall into a deep depression during his freshman year of college. He would Skype me, sobbing, and for the first time I couldn’t be the big sister who was always there for him. I wanted nothing more than to be with him, but all that I could do was helplessly tell him over video chat that everything would be okay from 13 time zones away. Yet walking out the door of the nursing home wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done, nor was letting go of that last tear-stained hug outside the taxi or months of video chats. It wasn’t leaving for Russia, and it wasn’t being there. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was learning not to regret the decision I had made- trying to live in the there and now rather than constantly wishing I was back home with the people I loved.
Two quotes were taped to my wall there. The first was from Moby Dick. “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go at it laughing.” The second was from the play Our Town. “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” I cannot say that I went at every day in Russia laughing, or that I realized every moment as I lived it there. But choosing to live by those quotes, choosing to try, instead of spending every moment there wishing I was home, is both the hardest and the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done. I do not regret the four months I spent in Russia. I did not lose four months of my life. I forced myself to live when it felt like I’d left everything in my life and all of the things worth living for on the other side of the globe, only to find upon returning that I didn’t really lose anything at all.
-Middlebury College, ’16