This year, the passing of Labor Day marked more than the end of white shoes or summer vacation. It marked my last month in the states. Since graduation in May, I’ve been to New Mexico, Louisiana, and Waco. I am now nestled in my hometown of Katy, where I will reside until I leave for Ukraine Sept 25.
Far from my typical activities, this summer has been filled with new memories. Besides going to jail with my grandmother, I went swimming with two octogenarians, fed alligators, rode a rice combine, drove an assortment of farming equipment, and taught my grandpa how to play computer solitaire. And that was just in Louisiana.
In Waco, I lived with a darling family of five and worked at the Baylor Line. In between interviews and stories, I learned to crochet (sort of), heard tales of Sergey Bubka, and got the feel for magazine life. In-between work hours, I quasi-nannied three children ages 3ish, 6ish and 8ish. Who taught me that it’s fun to be chased by someone you love, standing on the table is a good way to get attention, and clothes are overrated.
Since I’ve been home I’ve found myself doing things I almost never did growing up. Like going on walks with my parents or doing chores voluntarily. Leaving the country has strange effects on people. Of course, some of my changed behavior could be attributed to increased maturity. But let’s not get carried away.
I love my family dearly. I consider it a blessing that my family isn’t contained in one house, one state, or even one country. My travels have yielded unlikely friendships and broadened my understanding of the world. But the experience cuts both ways. I have learned that to go also means to leave.
When I think about the relationships forged over two summers in South America, I hurt for the friends I may never see again. But I’m so thankful for the time we spent together and the way they shaped who I am today. Our lives are enriched by communion with others, and I can’t wait to learn from and give to a new community in Ukraine.
One of my favorite all-time books is C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves. In it, Lewis says, “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” So out into the East I go: willfully-vulnerable, anxiously-awaiting new friends, and with a deep and abiding love for all the family I know today.