The plane touches down on the runway, and I’m suddenly home again. This past month in Romania has flown by.
As I step off the plane, the romantic in me acknowledges the “crossing space.” It’s like a Venn diagram: I’m stepping through the overlap as my Romania adventure ends and I emerge back into a familiar place. I’m the same person, yet I have grown in new ways. I wonder, for a moment, what will stick and what will fade as the familiarity envelops me again.
There’s English and French on the signs. I pause before saying thank-you, because I inherently want to say multumesc instead. There’s so much space, here: I won’t be walking through Piata Sfatului for my 2 lei covrig cu visine (cherry-filled pretzel) on a whim anymore. I understand what people around me are saying without having to decode tone, gesture, and facial expression.
It’s strange, really, how quickly a new routine can breed habit.
As I wait for my luggage, I mentally close the Romania chapter in my mind. I’m satisfied. The trip accomplished all that I hoped it would, and more. I grew as a writer, I made amazing friends, and I defamiliarized myself enough to catch a new perspective on the world that enriched me in ways I probably don’t even fully understand yet.
I’m tired, but inspired. It ended while it was still good.
Seasons. I live with this awareness of a rhythm of chapters that open and close as my story builds up. I don’t know the title of this new chapter yet, but I have some ideas about where it is going to go. Romania gave me enough distilled time with myself to sort through my priorities and establish my new direction. I know that it has more to do with writing and pushing myself out of my comfort zone in new ways. My career goals- my life goals- are wrapped up in three words: Travel. Teach. Write. As long as I’m doing these three things in some way, on some kind of rotation or combination, I’m doing what I was made to do.
The “travel” piece of the equation has been fulfilled for now. The “write” portion is a constant. The “teach” part is what I’m focusing on, next.
The thing about life is learning how to dance with the seasons. I’m sentimental to my core: I hate endings and good-byes. I could easily get a neck cramp from looking over my shoulder for too long. However, I’ve learned that every season has its time. Every season has its own painful, hard parts and also its flickers of beauty. If you can learn to embrace both sides and see them as part of your story- as your character development- you’ll see the threads of your story come together in beautiful, unexpected ways. There will be moments of confusion and deep pain, but also moments of clarity where it all suddenly makes sense or you’ll see how far you’ve come.
In literature, there’s this theme of “coming home” that either starts the story or ends it. Usually, if it starts the story, it inspires some kind of conflict that pushes the narrative forward. If it ends the story, it often signals comfort, safety, and the “driving off into the sunset” kind of feeling.
In reality, though, you get a mix of the two. Coming home is good and familiar, but you’ll always come back different. This means that re-integrating will probably cause a bit of conflict and a bit of comfortable familiarity. The trick is finding the new rhythm, or adjusting to the new hue. You’re the same, yet you are different: how do you reconcile that?
Right now I’m finding my footing. I don’t have to decode the culture, here. I’m not starting at square one. I’m stepping into square, say, 57, and I’m figuring out what that means in this place, at this time.
It’s summer now: my favourite season. I wait all year for this. However, this summer looks a lot different than my past five summers. I’m in a familiar place that I love, yet I’m in the unique position of redefining it. The things I learned in Romania: vulnerability, being brave enough to do what I love, leaning into the adventure of the process, and how much I love writing people’s stories are what I’m working with in this season. This is the ending point of Romania and the starting point of something new. Learning something is just the beginning: application is the next step.
I believe in exercising stewardship of the resources I’ve been given. This includes lessons that I learn and opportunities that I see. I want to use my talents, my voice, my relationships, my time, my belongings, in the wisest way I can. I’m thinking about all of this in the airport as I get ready to step into the new chapter. I’m acutely aware that it might be very easy to revert back to familiarity and lose my grip on these new things I’ve learned. I recognize, though, the opportunities that I have here: a new kind of summer, new lessons, new connections, new time. Why wouldn’t I use all of these things to the best of my abilities? Why wouldn’t I be excited about spinning these things into the next chapter of my story?
Home can be just as much of an adventure as travelling away from it.
I’m home now and all of these thoughts and ideas are rattling around inside of me. The mantra that I carried with me through Romania- go and do– is sticking with me here in Ontario, but it is more of a caution, now, than a challenge. It’s a new chapter: keep going, don’t get stuck in the old channels. I’m not combatting fear, here, as much as I’m guarding against kicking back into familiarity and getting stuck in the rut of the mundane.
Go and do. Grab hold of the next challenge and push yourself into a new chapter. Discover where the story is going next. It might be a very dark chapter, or the brightest one yet, but it is important to remember that chapters open and close and they are all connected. One thing that I’ve learned this year is that the process- the journey- is almost more important than the destination. I’m standing at the beginning of a new trail, reminding myself to stop and take pictures along the way, to pause when I see a sunset, to notice the birds singing, to remember that rain makes things grow, and that night always gives way to morning.
So thank-you Romania, and hello Ontario. I’m ready for the next chapter.