A little pep talk to let yourself know that everything would work out. That life would be a big, often messy, but always rewarding, adventure. That like everything else, it all ends being more than okay.
Before I studied abroad, I had all these unanswered questions. I could feel them looming above me as I was dropped off at the airport: Will I miss home? Will I be okay? Will I learn French quickly? How will I get through the tough days? Is this a good idea?
It's been nearly two months since I began my study abroad experience. Almost every other day I've been writing down what I've learned. Here is a list of things I would tell that girl that was nervously waiting at her gate with a ticket to Paris.
1. You'll miss home. Someone's laugh will remind you of your sisters, and you won't be able to replicate the way your mom makes you tea when you're sick. You'll miss your room and the way you know your way around. You'll miss these things but you'll get them back.
2. You'll be so grateful for people who show the smallest gestures of kindness. The bus driver who took the time to say, "Bonjour, Comment allez-vous?" (hello, how are you?). The farmer's market worker who gave you an extra peach for free. The librarian who showed you where your favorite English books are. These people will get you through the tough days.
3. You'll learn to let go. Sometimes because there's nothing left to hold on to. Sometimes because it's hurts more to hold on. You'll learn you can move more freely this way.
4. You'll fall in love with mornings in new cities and watch the sky at night simply because you have the time.
5. You'll get lost in grocery stores. You'll buy baby food instead of apple sauce. You'll want almond milk the first week and realize you don't know the word for almond. Or for milk.
6. You'll cry on a Saturday morning after going to the market and walking on cobble stone streets because life is so beautiful. And forgiving. You made it this far. I can promise you it only gets better. Time has a way of bringing you just to where you need to be.
7. You'll feel your strength when you least expect it. You'll feel confident in areas of your life you never felt secure in before. You'll read maps, travel by foot, bus, and train. You'll learn in an environment that is completely unique to you. You'll have a new appreciation for your body and the way it carries you to where you need to be.
8. You'll make friends with people from all over the world. You'll sit at the table with them long after the food is gone. You'll stay up late and finish a bag of cookies and a bottle of wine. You'll drink lots of tea while taking about religion and family and fresh starts and more.
9. You'll stop counting calories, avoiding making eye contact with desserts, and shaming your body. You'll love yourself without a list of exceptions and expectations.
10. A lot of things are exactly as you see them. People are not. Take time to get to know those who spark curiosity, or even frustration.
11. Sometimes there is nothing more to a bad day than it being a bad day. Sometimes you will ask questions that never get answered. Sometimes you'll embarrass yourself, like this one time you confuse the French words for chef and president and talk about how Obama should prepare food and tips for safe hygiene. Just keep living with intention. It's how you figure the questions out (and laugh at yourself).
12. You'll take a bus nearly everyday. You'll share hand railings with strangers. You'll make silly faces at babies. You'll learn to love sharing a crowded space with people that are all headed home to somewhere or someone.
13. You'll learn that there is a whole life outside of being someone's something. There's a whole part of you that no one else will understand until you do. Make peace with your past. Love the person who made it to this point.
14. You'll ask someone if they need help in English and realize you're in France. They will look at you strangely and then understand what you meant. You'll realize kindness is universal. Hold the door open. Say bless you. Give the old woman your seat. You'll learn if you don't have the words, empathy will do.
15. You'll write list like this often. On the bus, at a cafe, you'll stop what you are doing and write. Because it all means something. All of these little experiences collectively as a group are part of your becoming. Collect them, love them, share them. You'll be so glad you did.
Some recent photos from Pau, the Pyrenees, and Bordeaux.