Sunday, April 23, 2017

Five Ways I've Changed Since I Left the US

        I know I've been posting a lot more than I had been other weeks, so first of all, count yourselves blessed. This week I am going to put myself back at work and I already have some plans with friends, so this may be the last post for a while.

        Life updates are great, but I'd like to focus on a question that I get a lot here (from others and myself).  How have I changed since I've been in the United States? I can't give a definite answer because that is something you all are going to see, but here are just a few ideas. I also like writing for myself, and I figured I'd share this piece. (Warning: This is particularly targeted at my friends and family in America, so maybe my precious Frenchies do not want to read. If you do, do not come to me saying "Why do you have to focus on the fact that you will leave so much?") I'm preparing myself to leave France. It's hard. Writing is one way I do it.

        It also is good to write posts like this one because it is important to realize that not only has the tongue been moving in a different way, the stomach been digesting different foods, but I cannot tell you how much time I've spent mulling over the thoughts "Wow. I've changed, or have I?" "My life would've been so much simpler if I stayed in the USA." It's so hard to realize yet so beautiful "Wow, this is who I am." Maybe studying abroad is a big tennis match. It's more mental than anything. Wait, maybe that is a big part of life?

       So here we go: Five "simple" ways I've changed/ things I've realized.

       1. Sometimes you need to focus on yourself.

       Before I left the US, I put a lot of emphasis on my family and friends. It's logical, especially after I learned I would be leaving. It would be 11:00 at night and I would be helping my friend with math instead of studying myself, I rushed home from an exhausting week of school and an exhausting day of work to go out and mow Dad's lawn. (Maybe that is not too much, but those are just two examples. I could write a whole blog post about that.) I am not saying that is bad, far from that. In France, my host family and friends are a high priority. However, I carried that US mentality over to France.

        It was fine at first. I texted this and that person about my awesome host family, e-mailed a friend telling them about my awesome daily life in France, laid in bed Facetiming Mom and Dad, etc. It must have been about a month or two ago when I was viciously preparing for the SATs, my French fluency test and trying to keep up in school.  All of sudden, it seemed like all of these problems in my family appeared. Another three things were added to Janae's "to do list." The problems may not have been that serious, or maybe I was not called to solve them, but being 4,000 miles away certainly makes the simplest worry a problem. However, I couldn't do much even if I was called to from 4,000 miles away. My host mom also said one night as she was doing dishes and we were talking about my past life in France "Too much contact with your parents are often the reason for a host family change." I painfully learned to limit my contact with my family and friends in the US and focus on myself.
         2. I am more independent.

        This year I lived something one of my best friends in the US told me all the time: "Janae, you care too much about what other people think!" I think it hit during the host family change and is now reinforced every day here. During the host family change, I felt really lonely and like no one accepted me. My parents couldn't understand what I was going through, and of course it was difficult between me and my host family. For another time in my life, I was being shuffled all around again. That's about the time I reasoned with myself "Hey, maybe I don't need everyone else to surive!" I still remember the pride I had after packing my suitcase all alone twice and getting it downstairs.

        I realized this year just how individualistic I am. Many people think what I am doing is crazy, even if it is admirable. I've discovered so many new things here and ideas too. It will be more evident when I get home, but I really am learning how to think for myself and do things for me. My host family and my US family are completely polar opposites,and instead of complaining "I am in the middle!" I tell myself, "Oh, look at this difference! Which path am I going to take?"

        It seems ironic, and maybe it is. Through studying abroad, you learn how to be a better listener, but you also learn how to maybe decide "I don't think I am going to go along with that person's idea." It is all about finding a good balance.

        This is the first year, or month, that I will dare to tell everyone "I am proud of myself". I always waited to hear it. This time, it is what I think. Of course, I like to hear it, but if I don't, I am not going to cry in my room like I did before when it came to people not agreeing with me.

        3. Idealistic to Realistic (You can't have it all.)

        This will probably surprise some people. What? You were more idealistic before getting to live your dream and flew away by yourself and got yourself through each day in a foreign country? Yep.

        Going abroad definitely humbled me. It made me realize the truth of doing what you love. How did I get so good at French? Why did I not come home at Christmastime?  I was doing what I loved, and I still am. I do not classify this year as the hardest year of my life because it is purely what I like to do.

         Before I went abroad, I wanted to be the best at everything. I either did it or I didn't. I still want to be the best at everything, but I realize I just can't. At this time in my life, it is really necessary to choose what is important for me. I am 17. Even when I come back from this "trip", it will soon be graduation and, well, I am not going to say I am going to leave right away after returning.

        Summed up in one sentence, you can't have it all, but with hard work, you can have (almost) anything you really want if you are patient and dedicated.

       4. I take a step back before judging things.

       "It's not better. It's not worse. It's just different." AFS students have that drilled into their heads for cultural reasons, but I think that applies to much more in life than just the difference between white bread and a baguette. Of course, the first few months here I was constantly reminding myself of this little saying, as it was necessary, but it's now just my way of thinking. Maybe not everything in life is either right or wrong. That's the first time I've considered that. Something (or even someone) can be better for me and worse for another person, but that doesn't mean the thing (or person) is bad or good. There are limits of course, I know.

       5. Home has a different meaning.

      "Home sweet home". "Janae, we're loooking forward to when you come home." What does home mean? Yes, in French, it's "a la maison", but even that changes into "chez" sometimes. Anyhow, am I really coming home? Is home where I was born or where family is? I have a lot of family and friends worldwide. Laughing with my cousins on a snowy night at Grandma's house is my home as much as visiting an AFS friend in Japan is (if that ever happens) or coming "home" to my host family after a long day at school. (Cousins, I cannot wait to do that again.) Furthermore, my host dad told me something that really touched me a few weeks ago. He says I am at home wherever I go. That's me. I love going to new places, doing things I've never done before, and that can quickly become my home.

       I am not coming "home" in July. I am returning to a home in 77 days. I will be leaving home to come home.


1 comment:

  1. I'm in love with this post and it's so cool to see you observing these changes! <3 <3