Saturday, March 6, 2010

A bit of a reflection...(bear with me, please)

Madrid Barajas Airport. My flight to Barcelona brought me back to this airport for the first time since my initial arrival in Spain on January 9, 2010.

Perhaps I should remind you of my emotional and physical state of being on that day: after an exhausting week followed by 24 hours of travel, I left the plane with one thought in my mind: WHAT AM I DOING HERE?

Well, that wasn't the only thought running through my mind. I also wanted to know how soon I could go back to the United States. Confused and drained, I wandered around the airport, trying to call my parents, retrieve my luggage, make sure I went through customs properly, and comunicate with my host family, and get to Salamanca, was just too much.

I ended up in tears, talking to several young (and of course, good-looking) airport officials, who couldn't understand why I was so upset. They thought there was a probelem with my flight, passport, or something serious. But no, I was just lost, and confused, and scared. They were helpful, but I am sure they had a good laugh at my expense after I walked tearfully away.

And laugh is what I did when I returned to the airport. All those memories flooded back while waiting for my flight. The fear of the unknown, the exhaustion, the small, hopeless feelings...And though I am able to laugh (just a little, though) at my freakish behavior now, I don't think I could have acted differently then.

You see, I am not this kind of person: one who moves across the world by herself. I like adventure, yes, but only if I am able to maintain a certain level of my comfort zone. Ask my parents-I didn't imagine going to a summer camp or youth group meeting without at least one friend for moral support.

So how (and why), exactly, did I end up in the Madrid airport, weary and crying?

It's called a dream. My sister, Analise, has encouraged our family to recognize and pursue our dreams. A few years ago she gave us all "dream journals," but it took me awhile to actually use it. There is something scary about recognizing a dream; once you acknowledge it there are two options, to make it happen or let it pass. I think human nature allows us to ignore our dreams, to avoid the chance that we may not fulfill them, because what could be more discouraging that unfulfilled dreams?

Eventually, though, I sat down and filled in my dream journal. It was surprising how easy it was, and how exhilarating. Some of my dreams were simple (visit New York City) others more complex and challenging (earn my license in Massage Therapy), and some are expensive (travel to South America, etc). In writing them down, yes it is a bit scary, but it makes them more real, and more attainable.

While thinking about my dreams, I realized that my oldest dream was to study abroad. Since fifth grade, when I learned what is means to study abroad, I have been fascinated with the idea. During my college search I seriously considered the study abroad programs at each university, and when I looked at Salamanca (through Bellarmine's program) something clicked, and I knew that is where I wanted to be.

And so as an eager young freshman, I wandered into the International Programs Office to begin preparations. And for two years, my semester abroad was this distant idea, something that would happen in the future, a long way off...

Suddenly, it was upon me. Ready or not, I was buying my plane ticket, securing my room, packing my things, and freaking out. Literally, ask my close friends and family, I was a mess. That dream of mine didn't seam so pleasant, in fact, it appeared more as a monster, raring its ugly was this huge unknown, and I didn't like it.

The thing about a dream is, once you start working towards it you can't really stop. There was no changing my mind, no going back. And in spite of all my fear, I knew I wanted to do this, I knew I had to do this.

And I survived the nightmare in the Madrid airport; not only that, but I made it to Salamanca, I met my host family, I started classes, I met people, I moved into the dorms, I started my job...I am here, and (excuse the cliche) I am living my dream. That is a great feeling. Very...freeing, uplifting, quite incredible.

My first experience in Madrid-Barajas Airport was, well, a challenge. And my second experience induced quite a bit of reflection. St. Paul said it well in Romans 8:18: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

I can't wait to see what is in store for me in this life!

"Few things energize the human spirit like the pursuit of a dream." (Unknown)

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