Bittersweet Enlightenment

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Yesterday, I was riding the bus back home after my classes, thinking about how this was the second to last day I would ever do this. Never again will I be taking the C4 route from the University of Seville to my host family’s home. In just a couple days I’ll be back in the United States, thrown back into the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, surrounded by fog and hills rather than the Andalusian fields and Spanish sun. As much as I miss my city and feel ready to go home, I can’t help but feel bittersweet as I say my last goodbye.

I read my first entry today, written during my first full week while being abroad. Everything was new and shocking, and for the first time I was experiencing history, not just reading about it or seeing a documentary. Over the course of the semester I’ve walked along ancient ruins in Italica and Rome, gone inside Westminster Abbey and seen the balcony at Buckingham Palace (pre-coronation, of course) and stood on the highest point of the National Monument in Scotland. At first, I felt like I was home, that because Spain and Europe were a part of my history I could hold some sort of claim towards it. Though I still feel some sort of connection, I now realize that neither are my home. Perhaps one day in the future they could be, but every day these past four months I found my mind drifting back to my family, the waves crashing on Ocean Beach, the leaves changing in St Paul while I make my way to campus. I learned to appreciate and navigate the world and other cultures, but I could not and cannot claim them as mine.

I thought studying abroad would give me a sense of who I was and what impact I wanted to leave on the world. In my mind, this was the semester that would cement my hopes, I would take the classes I was interested in and I’d know for sure what I would want to do after graduation. In reality, I feel more lost now than I did six months ago. Now that I’ve seen how big the world is, I’m not quite sure where I fit in it. I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but now I’m not so sure. There are too many interests tugging at my attention, too many possibilities of who I could become in this world. Many nights I’ve laid in bed, thinking about who I am, what qualities I can’t change, what my values are. I understand more who I am as a Mexican-American first generation student and the pride that comes with that identity. I value intercultural communication, equity, kindness, growth. As a wise person once told me, discovering that there is still more to discover, is still a discovery.

While writing this, Lorde’s “Oceanic Feeling” comes to mind, especially the phrase “Oh was enlightenment found?/ No but I’m trying, taking it one year at a time”. I’m still figuring out who I am. The best I can do is take it one day at a time.