When I was 19 years old I thought I was going through a mid-life crisis. I wasn’t happy with how college was going, I couldn’t decide on a career path, and my restless heart had me constantly looking around at someplace to go and something new to see. This was the end of my sophomore year when I told my mom I was going to either drop out, intern with Disney or Study Abroad. She told me option A, dropping out was not an option and that I needed to decide on one of the other two.
School ended, summer came and I seemed to forget about my mid-life crisis- momentarily. As soon as I got back to campus and started my junior year of school those old familiar feelings of needing to see the world, and wanting a change crept back into my heart. It was definitely something I needed to act upon but couldn’t figure out how. I decided to check out my schools study abroad office to see what sorts of fun I could find. I looked at various countries but already knew that I wanted to either go to South Africa or New Zealand. After talking with a dear old friend who studied in New Zealand and my advisor who is a frequent visitor of South Africa, I decided New Zealand would be better fit. I applied to the program without talking to my parents much about my decision (not recommended) and let the fate of my Junior year fall into the study abroad office and the University of Otago.
A month later I got the letter in the mail stating I was accepted into the University of Otago and that I would be leaving for New Zealand February 9, 2011. Holy Crap. Was this real?? I guess I had better tell my parents I was leaving for five months now.. 😐
As the time drew closer to my departure, I started to second-guess my decision. I was living with my best friends and having the time of my life. My relationship with my boyfriend at the time couldn’t have been in a better spot and I started to worry I was crazy for seemingly throwing away this perfect life I had created for myself for a semester abroad. I began to actually dread the countdown to my departure. The thought of leaving my life in Minneapolis behind made me sick to my stomach. There were actual nights that I would say to my boyfriend, tears in my eyes, that I would do anything to stay back, that I didn’t want to get on that plane. It was an odd emotion and one I hid from most everyone else. I didn’t want people to know I was scared, but deep down I was terrified.
When the day came for me to leave, my mom and Grandma took me to lunch before seeing me off at the Minneapolis airport. I spent the wait scared out of my mind, questioning over and over in my head if this was the right decision. The worst part about my departure was the five-hour lay over at LAX. It gave me plenty of time to think and over think just about every little thing.
By the time I got to New Zealand, I started to feel a little better about my choice. I was still missing my friends like crazy but decided that I had to live this experience or I would soon regret it. With the help of my dear friends Jens and five amazing friends I picked up along the way, my time in New Zealand turned in to one of the greatest adventures of my life so far. The memories are unmatchable. It was the single most freeing lifestyle I could have hoped for. Of course, the trip wasn’t perfect- heartbreak, arguments and drama from home caused a rift in my time but still- it was exactly what I needed to grow as a person.
As I sit here, contemplating the next phases of my life I realize that in order to grow as people we must push our boundaries and comfort zones. There may never be a “perfect time” to do anything, but if you don’t take that leap of faith you will never have those adventures and create those memories that call from deep within your soul. Life isn’t about staying in that ‘perfect life’ that you are comfortable with. We must continue to always seek to better ourselves and to find ways to push our limits.
Near the end of my time in New Zealand, I wrote about the four biggest lessons I learned during my time there. Sometimes I need to re-read and remember for myself;
- Trust yourself first; you are the only one who knows what’s best for you. Listen to others and seek out advice, but ultimately you are the only one who can decide. You have to live with the outcome of your decision, not someone else.
- You are stronger than you believe. There are many times in life and on journeys that we feel completely over whelmed and frustrated with everything going on. We want nothing more than to give up, walk away and go home. All the trials, frustrations, and tribulations that come with living in a foreign country (or, just with life) make up why our experiences are so awesome. Sure there are miserable times, but looking back most those moments become almost laughable and irrelevant to the big picture.
- Home will always be there, but for now go and find yourself. This lesson took me a long time to realize and the one I tend to forget the most. Once you let go and live in the moment, exploring something other than the home you grew up in; it’s amazing.
- Everything will work out and play out exactly as it should.
I’m ready for the next big thing, are you?