Leaving A Place You Love Behind

I didn’t cry when I left Scotland.

That may not sound like an accomplishment to you, but given the fact that I cried while watching an old episode of One Tree Hill the other night (don’t judge me), I was shocked at my own unemotional goodbye.

When I left Paris, my former home, I sniffled and sobbed most of the plane ride towards Chicago O’Hare airport.  I wrote an entire farewell letter to the city in hopes of giving myself closure.

My time in Paris helped me realize that leaving a place you love can manifest as some disorienting displacement.  You return to your old life, or perhaps create a new one, all the while baffled by this new reality you don’t quite belong to.  It’s easy, and dangerous, to continue living a former life, imagining yourself in a former home you still love.  And if you’re not careful, the memories can haunt you, preventing you from existing in the present.

When I left Scotland, I expected a similar devastation – a similar wave of nausea at the mere thought of leaving.  But it never came.

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I couldn’t quite understand why.  I enjoyed my time in Scotland.  The people, the culture, Edinburgh’s secret nooks, the many cafes, the history, and surrounding rugged beauty, all colored my life.  I had fallen irrevocably in love, so for me not to cry was utterly astounding.  And in a strange way, I don’t remember my last day in Scotland with much detail.

And yet I remember my last day in Paris with exquisite clarity.  The crowded banks of the Seine, the blisters on my feet – every moment exists in my mind, even today, nearly a year later.

It finally makes sense now though; with Paris, I was leaving a place and a life that I loved, with no idea when I’d be back, and no idea where I was going.  For someone who had planned a life with such meticulous precision I graduated from college a whole year early, the plan-less abyss ahead terrified me, so I clung to Paris, my last lifeboat.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found transitions difficult.  And yet this time, in Scotland, the doubt and uncertainty that had previously plagued me all drifted away…I imagined my worries floating towards the North Sea, lost to the serenity of the salty winds and muddled ocean waters.

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When I left Scotland, I was too content with my life to bother committing every second to memory.  Instead I let it all wash over me – let the impressions and emotions pass in and out of my mind, as opposed to forcing each detail to memory.

So now, unfortunately and fortunately, I don’t quite remember my last day in Scotland.  I do know it was fittingly…grungy.  Grey.  Rather dismal.  Scotland can’t just rain steadily.  Oh no.  It will pour with winds harsh enough to lift whole trees, and just when you think you will never step outside again, the rain will soften to a light drizzle, interspersed with pieces of blinding sunlight.  So you’re essentially just always confused.

Chris and I drove through these bizarre conditions towards the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, where I would say goodbye to Scotland; my time living there had ended, and I knew I’d soon have to leave my new home and new relationships.

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I remember certain moments – snapshots and pictures – like mists and pools of fading light undulating across the quiet lake.  An abandoned orange peel, drenched in sand and shards of seashells.  The cascading ripples leftover from Chris’s skipping stones.  An exuberant dog, all too eager to fling himself into the freezing waters of the loch, and shake his shaggy head on his laughing owner.  The nearby remnants of a castle – a silent purveyor of the land.  My hair becoming so tangled in the wind, I broke a couple bristles on my brush.

In many ways, Scotland reminded me of myself – of a hidden part of me that has always been determined to write children’s books about elves and witches.  The countryside of Scotland insists upon the existence of the otherworld, and I found myself falling in love with magic once more.

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Those lochs, the valleys of heather, the shifting purple and orange sky, felt familiar – warm. Most of all, I just remember the sense that I had found a second home, and knew I would soon return.

And when you find a home halfway across the world, and you know your time there is far from over, the transition of leaving doesn’t have to be heartbreaking.  It can be comforting and beautiful.

That’s how Scotland and I temporarily parted ways: with a reminder of who I am, who Scotland is, and a sense that I have found a place to call home again someday.

Speaking of calling places “home,” keep an eye out for exciting new announcements!

Have you ever left a place you love behind?  Did you have a similar experience?

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