I’m three hours away from getting on an airplane that will take me to the next year of my life in England. It’s hard to organize my feelings, and I can’t believe it’s finally time to go. I applied for my Master’s in Biological Photography program well over a year ago, and the person who applied feels different from the one who’s actually going. This year has been a veritable rollercoaster, and between the stress of getting ready, getting sick just four days before leaving, and saying goodbye to all friends one more time (about five more times) I hadn’t slowed down to take a moment to think about what’s ahead of me.
I want to start by saying that I am eternally grateful to all the new friends I made this year, my old friends from home, Los Angeles, and around the world, and my incredibly supportive family. You helped me more than you’ll ever know through from the rough transition of leaving my college town to excitedly leaving for another country, and I miss you all already. This past year has definitely been challenging. There have been heartbreaks, but where there’s been heartbreak there’s been love and happiness. There have been times of loneliness and sadness, but there have been many more times of friendship, wonderment, and joy. There were times I was weak and lost, but it shaped me to become stronger and more confident.
Despite the growth I’ve been through this year, I admit I’m still quite apprehensive. In her 2011 commencement address, Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave Harvard graduates sage advice I’m sure many of you have heard before: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Miss Sirleaf, I am absolutely terrified. The next year of my life is roughly sketched out and after that, there is just a black chasm. But the idea of possibilities and paths I don’t even know exist are so thrilling, so intoxicating, I can’t resist throwing myself into the void. This will be the fourth country I’ve ever lived in, and third time living away from home, but it seems to get harder each time to leave. Before, I’ve been so excited I couldn’t wait to leave, but this time it’s unbelievably bittersweet. It puts it into perspective how lucky I am to have such amazing friends. However, I am a slave to my own wanderlust, and nothing is more vitalizing than exploring. Every country gone only leaves scores more countries in its path to be discovered. Friends, family, I hope you can forgive me this weakness, and know that no matter how far away I am, I will forever be anchored to your hearts.