Getting on the plane that was going to take me to Newark International Airport was a funny feeling. Or lack of one. I expected to feel really sad or really excited, but instead I just felt nothing. It was just another day. I said goodbye to my friend who had given me a ride to the airport, got on the plane, and was up in the air. I thought maybe when the plane left the ground I would feel a rush of emotion. Nope.
I have this tradition of having new friends that I make write in this little journal that I have. It can be a note, a quote, an inside joke, anything. That way as I travel and meet new people I get to take a little bit of them with me wherever I go. The rule is I can’t read what people write until I am a good distance away from them on my way home. So of course, as soon as the plane was up in the air I opened up the journal and read through the notes. I thought, maybe now, I will be hit with emotion and can just have a good cry like I know I need. Nope. Even that didn’t do it.
So I watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Horrible Bosses, Drive, and an episode of the The Big Bang Theory without really feeling a tinge of sadness. I took a little nap. The flight attendants served us a lovely lunch and supper. Still nothing.
Then all of the sudden the eight hour flight was coming to an end. The intercom clicked on and a voice told me we would be landing shortly. I waited patiently and calmly. The plane landed and still nothing. Then I looked over at my roommate and saw her excitedly turning on her phone and calling her dad to tell him that she was back in the U.S. That’s when it hit me. I dug out my phone from my backpack and looked at it like it was a foreign object. It had been so long since I had called anyone or tried to text on it. I sat there thinking about turning it on and receiving all the texts that people had sent me while I was off studying abroad and I got a heavy feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t do it.
See, for me, the study abroad experience had really began when I turned my phone off when I was flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Frankfurt International Airport. I had been texting my friends and family right up to the point when the flight attendant said to turn all electronic devices off. I flashed back to that moment and realized that I wasn’t ready for my study abroad experience to end. That moment seemed like just yesterday!
My anxiety increased as my roommate continued to chat and text on her phone. She kept on looking over at me and asking, “Aren’t you going to call your parents at least?” I just said I didn’t want to be rushed or I didn’t want to do it on the plane with a bunch of people listening. But really, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be home. I didn’t want to have to call my parents and try to force some enthusiasm into my voice when I said the words, “I’m home!” I didn’t have the energy.
Eventually, I called them and before I knew it I was walking up to them in the tiny Dickinson airport. My little sister was considerably taller, my older sister had grown her hair out, my dad was smaller around the middle, and my mom was wearing new clothes. I wondered what changes they saw in me and wished that I could see them myself.
I was exhausted on that last plane ride. Emotionally and physically. But once I got home I couldn’t go to sleep. I stayed up late getting caught up with my sister.
Now that I’ve been back a few days I am starting to remember how things were before I left. Family life certainly was a little romanticized in Norway. I saw my family through a different lens. Now I remember the little quirks about my sisters that used to drive me up the wall. One of my Norwegian friends told me that when she went to school in the United States she had an amazing relationship with her mom and then once she returned to Norway things went straight back to how they used to be.
I am determined for this not to be the case for me! Coming back has been rather like a slap in the face as I am remembering all the problems that I left, but it has also been a pleasant surprise in some ways. For instance, seeing all my friends and family has made me remember all of the reasons why I missed them as well.
So here’s to yet another new beginning! The third one this year. I can’t turn back the clock so I might as well set my mind on moving forward! Norway, I won’t forget you. You and the people that I met and the places that I saw will forever be a part of me.
Someday, I might just go back!