Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Floating on distant memories: one month later

I can't believe I have been home in Calgary for over one month now.  Or should I say, I can't believe I was ever gone for so long.  My magical 10 months in France feel like a dream (the best one of my life) and so far away from the me that is now back into my Canadian home and routine.  

Leaving my French home and exchange was emotional and confusing, but arriving home in beloved Canada was incredible and so exciting.  I walked through the airport doors to see my entire family and 4 of my friends holding balloons, flowers, "Welcome Home Siobhan" signs, and there was even a Tim Horton's Iced Capp with my name on it.  I turned into a blabbering excited mess of screams and laughter and couldn't stop myself from jumping around being excited and hugging everyone over and over.  It's an amazing feeling to be able to finally hold your loved ones in the biggest bear hug of all time after thinking about it and missing it for 10 months straight.  

It makes absolutely no sense, but my first week home felt like a cross between some slow-motion underwater limbo and an insane Tazmanian Devil-type whirlwind.  I was busy with work training as soon as I was back, but I also felt like I didn't have anything to do... something that had never been the case while I was away.  I arrived home Sunday night and on the Wednesday my family threw me a big BBQ at my house where I could invite all my good friends from all my walks of life that I hadn't seen in a year or more.  My backyard was filled with childhood friends, camp friends, ski friends, dance friends and friends from high school. It was a beautiful mosaic of all the people I missed being around while I was gone.  It was so weird!!! I floated around socializing with everyone, feeling like I had never even left and the last time I saw any of them had been only a week or two earlier.  I didn't get much into talking about my year aside from telling almost everyone that it had been the best year of my life and trying a little bit to explain what a day in my French life had been like... but I found (and still do find) it so hard to summarize what I experienced in only one conversation.  I constantly feel overwhelmed by the question "So how was it?!" because every time it's asked, I'm overcome by hundreds of emotions and memories and it just doesn't do any of those memories justice to reply with the phrase "The best experience of my life" or "Absolutely incredible" or one of the other responses I've been pulling out of the back storage in my brain.  But that's how it's going to have to be because to explain my experience to anyone who hasn't been on an exchange or done extensive traveling would only properly be done by buying them a plane ticket, packing their bags, and sending them away themselves.  I couldn't possibly hope to explain my year to anyone, but that's the beauty of it because it's the kind of thing one can only understand after having been through it themselves. So for all of you who wish to know what my year was like, get on a plane and go see.

Life goes on as it must, and here I am over a month later with a steady job and a very busy life as I get ready to pack my life up once again to go to Quest University in Squamish BC in August.  I love being at home and around my family, but I have a yearning ache for adventure to start once again and so I'm looking forward to my move with incredible excitement.  New faces and places and like minded people are a recipe for a hopefully amazing year to come.  

I mentioned that it feels as though I never left, and although it's amazing it can also be suffocating.  I feel a sort of panic begin to set in on those days where my exchange really does feel like a dream.  I am so determined to not let myself forget or move on from the memories.  I want the lessons I learned and the relationships I made go on to guide me on my next path of life.  Sometimes I feel sad.  My family and best friends are scattered across the globe but letting myself think too much about that won't get me anywhere.  What's important is to realize how lucky I am to have been touched by so many wonderful wonderful people and to be so thankful that I had the chance to make such friendships, as opposed to letting myself be depressed it's all over.  Besides... I'M YOUNG! The traveling and international friendships have only just begun.

Life isn't all work this summer which is nice.  I went to to Fernie, BC 2 weeks ago and saw the Canadian Rockies for the first time in 10 months which was incredible and I personally believe it was a little bit of soul therapy.  There's just something about those mountains.  I went with Gillian and Wendy who are both from Calgary.  They too went on exchange this past year to Austria and Mexico and the 3 of us were able to laugh and share in our memories and the similar shenanigans we were able to get up to despite being in 3 different countries.  Then this past weekend was Calgary's Folk Music Festival which I volunteered at with Gillian, Wendy and lots of other friends.  It was a weekend spent listening to amazing music, forming new relationships, discovering old ones, and dancing like a CRAZY PERSON (so. much. fun).  

I think this will be my last post on this blog. At least for now.  My year has come to an official end and I want to leave it at that and let this blog be a wondrous treasure of memories and stories for myself and for anyone interested in Siobhan's French adventure of 2013 and 2014.  Thank you to everyone who has kept up with it all year and shown interest in my stories and writings and not-very-good-jokes.  Thank you once again to Rotary for giving me such an amazing gift of an experience. Thank you my friends, you know who you are. Here is to the next chapter of awesome. 

Ce n'est pas un adieu mais un au revoir
Siobhan Barry