Saturday, July 29, 2017

A year since two big firsts

Hey guys!

So as the title of this post would suggest, a year has gone by since a very auspicious and important day in my life, which was July 27, 2016.

On that day, I left my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a true home base for the last time, just days before my family packed up my entire childhood home and moved to St Louis, Missouri, and embarked on my twenty-five day adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice (or, as it's also known, Iceland).

Now, from the Land of Fire (a well-deserved nickname for Azerbaijan) a year later, I've been thinking a lot about everything that's transpired since that day, pertaining to those two particular aspects.

When I left Ann Arbor, I was very scared. As adventurous a person as I would like to consider myself, and as much as I love to travel and explore the world in pursuit of my diverse and expansive linguistic passions, I have roots. I have many places that I love and miss and feel nostalgic for when I leave them behind, and as the place that was the backdrop for all of my childhood and adolescence, every fun day of school and budding friendship, every distant dream for the future and ill-fated crush, Ann Arbor stands above them all. Before I left last year, I had never permanently called another place home. My family had always lived there; Ann Arbor and my old house there specifically were comforting fortresses with my past life and memories written into the very walls, my rocks that I knew I would go back to, and know that I could be my complete and whole self there.
Leaving it behind forever terrified me.
And for a long time until I visited Ann Arbor again for the first time since our move this past May, I missed it deeply and intensely, to the point that at times even just thinking about Michigan would make me want to cry.

When I finally returned to Ann Arbor in May, it soothed and nourished my spirit in a way almost nothing else had for all the months I'd been away. Here I was again, wandering the streets that I always used to, seeing all these people and being in all these places that were familiar and comforting to me, finally back in the place where I grew up.
But at the same time, it also provided somewhat of a reality check.
Being back, as amazing as it was, was sort of strange, as not being in our old house anymore, it not being ours at all anymore, threw my entire center of gravity and perception of the town off kilter. It almost felt like a different place at times. Occasionally, particularly on a few occasions when I was driving alone along roads that I always used to take home from school and from downtown, jamming to my favorite music on the radio, I forgot everything else, and for a split second it felt like nothing had ever changed, like I had never left, like my old life was mine once again.
But in general, it helped me realize that although it is a place that I grew up in, that I will always miss and feel at home in and love, I don't live there anymore, my old life there doesn't really exist anymore, and it's just...different.

But that wasn't a sad thing. It wasn't a brutal, off-putting reality check; it just kind of helped me to make peace with the fact that we'd moved, and once I'd been back, seen my beloved hometown and caught up with many childhood and high school friends, soothed my spirit and put a lot of those turbulent feelings to rest, I started opening up myself much more to our adopted city of St Louis, and feeling much more at home there.

And as for Iceland.
I cannot believe that it's been a year since the time that I spent in that beautiful country.
I went to Iceland because I'd carried a dream within me for five years to study its unique, ancient language, and then ended up falling head over heals in love with the otherworldly landscapes, frank and friendly folk, and little traces of their history embedded into the land in unexpected places.
I'm hoping to return to Iceland again, potentially as early as next summer if all goes according to plan, in order to deepen my fluency in Icelandic.
I'm not even sure what else to say. It's so surreal to think about how a year ago, I had just arrived in Iceland, and was exploring the sights in and around Reykjavik largely on my own, acquainting myself with the country's cultural and population center before venturing off to the remote and ethereal Westfjords to begin my Icelandic study, the roots of my passion for the country and its language and culture taking full bloom like the swift-growing blossoms of the Arctic summer, and now a year later I'm reflecting on it from Baku, searching for bits and pieces of Turkey and improving my knowledge of its language in this beguiling city at the crossroads of the Turkic, the Soviet, the Persian.

From the Land of Fire and Ice, to the Land of just Fire.

I'm incredibly lucky to have had all these opportunities for adventure, to bring my dreams to life. And to have so many incredible places that I can call home.
And I won't lose sight of it.

^And here enjoy a beautiful acoustic mashup of a Hindi and an English song by two talented Beloiters!

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