WARNING: This post is going to start off really, really sad but it will get better.
On September 14th, I set off for a 10 month living experience in Madrid, Spain. The week leading up to that day was wild and I was such an emotional wreck and went through a spiral that led me to considering if I was even making the right decision. There was a multitude of things leading to this explosion of emotions and I have to say that the greatest of these was the sudden passing of my Aunt Hilda. My family was very surprised and it was so difficult to process because of this. I remember sitting in the funeral feeling displaced, like what I was witnessing wasn’t real and was just a bad dream. She passed away on Monday, we had the funeral on Thursday and what made it so surreal was that I was anticipating seeing her Friday night at my family going away dinner. She had already told me she would be there, ready to go! Even now, it’s difficult to comprehend.
On top of all that, there was the packing up of the apartment, saying goodbye to friends, roommates and family, packing for a year abroad, and tying up loose ends (banks, cable, car insurance, etc.) and it became a mountain of stress. I’m fairly certain I cried at least 37 separate times that week, about 8 times on that Friday alone. I remember shoveling clothes into trash bags with tears rolling down my eyes and schlepping bags of junk in the Alabama heat to my car outside and loading it up to the very roof with the belongings I wanted to keep.
Fortunately, the Saturday before that was my going away party at the one and only party central of Florence-Casa Mexicana! Seriously, where else would I want to go for my last dining out experience with all my friends in Florence?
After spending all week in Florence saying goodbyes and packing up, I headed to my grandparents house in Lynn for a going away dinner with my family. My grandmother cooked breakfast for dinner which was an absolute treat because it is above and beyond my favorite food! Biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, ham, you name it. Her biscuits and gravy would seriously be my death row meal. It was great to have the whole family together, especially since I wouldn’t be physically present for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or my birthday…
No problems there! My Aunt Tina kindly surprised me with a chocolate cake for an early birthday celebration! Isn’t that too sweet? (See what I did there?…ok, I’ll stop.)
After plenty of hugs, tears and laughter, I had to say good-bye to my extended family. When I woke up Saturday, it’s needless to say I was a bundle of nerves. I ended up both my suitcases and backpack to rearrange things, double check, and try to maneuver things around to pack them a little tighter. My parents and brother were cool as cucumbers outside giving the dog a bath while I was in the house sweating bullets. For those of you who know me well, I’m usually cool, calm and collected when flying or going out of the country. But this was the FIRST time I was going to be gone for nearly a year. I think that’s a good enough reason to be a little jittery.
We had a wonderful drive to look forward to, a 5 hour drive to Atlanta. We left around noon in order to get me there for my 7:30 p.m. check-in and to have time to stop for food. What was my last meal on the road in the States? Chik-Fil-A. Duh. I mean, I’m Southern, why wouldn’t I want fried chicken before moving away for a year?? We ended up arriving to the airport early enough that we could relax, drink some tea, have a snack and inevitably…watch Alabama football on the TV screens in the airport waiting area.
This is essentially all there is to tell for the week leading up to my departure. It was far more tumultuous than I had even imagined possible back in April when I accepted my place in the CIEE program. I learned a lot about the value of relationships this past summer after I announced that I would be moving to Spain. You learn very quickly who your nearest and dearestare when you realize your immediate time with them is limited. I can’t even explain the warmth it brought to me that in my last few months in Florence, I had plans nearly every night of the week because people wanted to spend time with me before I left. I soaked up every last bit of things that maybe we sometimes take for granted like even something as small as a run to Wal-Mart at 10:00 at night with your roommate for ice cream, or eating dinner and watching a TV show at a friend’s home. True, 10 months isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things but it’s long enough to make you realize how much people mean to you and appreciate them all the more.