The worldwide Augustana College experience

Home isn’t always a place…

Dear Sydney,

I will apologize upfront. Given my current mood, this is going to be pretty reflective and not so much informational. From last Thursday to today (Wednesday), a few things pretty cool happened, but what really struck me these last few days specifically are the relationships I have in my life. Not just the relationship I have with my boyfriend but all the good, bad, loving, blood, and friendship relationships as well. Through a series of events recently I have learned more about myself and those I choose to appreciate and surround myself with than ever before. My greatest discovery is that home is not always a place. Since I don’t really know how to explain it, I will start at the beginning…

Thursday: If you are a consistent reader you will have noted in my last post that I was to attend a Mardi Gras (Gay/Lesbian Pride) venue tour last Thursday night. As misfortune would have it, we didn’t end up going. Consequentially, lesson number one emerged. While some fellow friends took the lost opportunity for the new opportunity to go out to a beer pong tournament and dance the night away, I chose to stay in. I watched “The Block”, which is an apartment renovation show here in Australia, and then wrote in my personal journal about the week. The next morning Friday:  when my friends were still sleeping off drunk at 10 AM, I made my way to the beach alone. Contrary to the usual, the beach was relatively empty. I could have actually counted how many people were there. The waves were also the highest I have ever seen them. They were easily 2 average size people high and no one was swimming for the dangerous crashes they created. Both aspects added up to this quiet beach with steady and consistent sound of crashing waves. The day was cloudless and the sun was a light touch on the skin as opposed to an intruding force on the body. The light wind was welcome and made breathing come easy and deep. I’m not sure I fully realized it at the time, even though I felt the difference, but I was learning my appreciation for being alone. I’m not saying I hate people and I don’t enjoy communicating and experiencing other people, but I do have an appreciation for being alone now. I have slowly accepted it over my time here, more by situational force to than anything else, but when I had to start experiencing things without anyone from my comfort zone, my acceptance of the need to be alone at times began. The feeling started when I was not afraid to stay in and be with myself that Thursday night instead of staying with the pack, which is everyone’s natural tendency when living on the other side of the world from your home. It continued when I spent 3 hours alone on a beach with only the waves to talk to me. What I came to think about was the metaphorical beauty of it all. I was warmed and comforted by the sun, was romantically touched and relieved by the wind, was continually faced with the unrelenting waves of the ocean, and then there was me laying still among it all. Everything was in balance and it took me laying there and appreciating it alone without all the noise to recognize the need for every aspect. The sun was my family and friends. Their support, encouragement, love, and laughter are what warm me and give me comfort. The wind was my relationship. It  brings me someone to touch and hold as a physical presence as well as being what relieves me from my daily challenges and tames my more extreme characteristics. Without both the sun and the wind there is no balance. Much like the feeling of still air and harsh sun heat, or a hidden sun and the sting of biting wind, I need a balance of forces in my life. My family does not exist separately of my relationship, and my relationship separately of my family. They work together to give me happiness and peace. The waves were quite another character however. They feel like life to me, both expected and unexpected at the same time. Each crashing wave destroyed the still, calm silence in a way that felt like life’s challenges crashing onto the shores of my calm and peace. However, if I had no waves to break on me, I would not want to be there. Who goes to a beach to just lay on sand? Isn’t 50% of the reason you go for the water and waves? Similarly, life would be nothing and worth no journey if there was no excitement, pain, happiness, or sorrow that would break the endless calm. Lastly, there was me. In the middle of all this poetic beauty was silly old me. My towel, my bag, my disturbance of the sand all seemed like I shouldn’t have destroyed the balance at first. But the more I thought about it, I considered that if I wasn’t there, who would the sun warm and comfort? who would the wind caress and cool down? who would hear and experience the waves? Just as I needed all three to stay in balance, they needed me to be in balance as well. The most amazing part of all this, was all it took for me to learn this was that I needed to be alone. Leading to my first lesson; Home can be found in your own heart.

Saturday: Karen, the CAPA student’s adviser from Augustana, arranged to take us to the Sydney Aquarium. We left in a large messy huddle on a bus and eventually ended up at Darling Harbor in a mass herd of talking and all hanging out together. Everyone was pretty happy and excited to be going finally. However, the aquarium was far from convenient for large groups. Differing from the Shedd Aquarium, there is a designated path and halls to follow throughout the aquarium experience.  Along this path were the most elaborate and beautiful fish and sea creature exhibits ever created. The colors and variety were truly amazing and you really felt like you were in an underwater world. I saw great barrier reef fish, I saw ice fish, I saw tropical fish, I saw sharks, etc. It is my favorite museum to have ever visited. (pictures below) My favorite animal was the dugong, which looks much like a manatee but is specific to Australia. However, instead of getting to share this experience with everyone and turning around to point out something new to group to look at, the functionality of the place only allowed me to tell my closest 3 friends. Us four shared comments, pictures, and laughter the entire way without ever really seeing the rest of the group or knowing what they liked. Afterwards everyone met up for a free lunch provided by Karen nearby at a place called the Pontoon Bar. It was a decent lunch and I definitely over ate in an effort to not have to pay for dinner as well. That night, me and the same 3 friends opted not to go out and instead we packed up our blanket, boxed wine, and eyes full of tears in order to go see a night, outdoor showing of ‘Frozen” in the park. It was a half hour walk to the theater and it was a nice night so we walked and shared our own set of girlish stories and laughter about weddings, dreams, and boys. The journey there watching the sun go down was just as much as part of the experience as the movie itself was. That said, the movie was phenomenal and we all cried for the Disney beauty of it. Walking home was just as much a sap fest of talking of family, childhood, and all other things Disney movies inspire. My favorite part though was that instead of choosing the night on the town in loud music, drunk people, and crowded rooms, we as friends wanted to spend time together as us 4 in a way that we actually got to be with each other. We didn’t need it to be Australia, a park, or a gorgeous sunset (although that was great), we just needed to relax and hang out together in order to appreciate life and happiness that night. Leading to my second lesson: Home can be found in your friends.

Sunday: Even though this was kind of LATE Saturday night, I am going to count it as Sunday. So Saturday did not end as perfect as it’s evening began. I won’t go into details but unfortunately I began to feel very sick around 3 in the morning. I came out of my bathroom from dry heaving in order to get a glass of water and one of the other students in the room decided to laugh at me and tell me that it was all in my head. Being the first time I had felt this sickly miserable across the world and having no mom to take care of me, I was hurt. The continued condescension and negative feelings into the night left me pretty bruised and I ended up calling home. Both my parents listened to me rant and cry and offered me solace and calming words. I finally fell back asleep, but felt no better in the morning. After another particularly unpleasant run in with the same student, I ended up calling home again. Once again my ever loving and patient parents listened to my continued hurt and once again talked me out of my downward spiral. They even helped support me and offered help when I needed to leave the negative environment. Even days later now they are still checking in on me and bringing me comfort and peace when I feel most trialed or stressed. Without their guidance I could never stop my tirade of emotions long enough to get myself back up and keep going. Leading to my third lesson: Home can be found in family

Monday: For those of you who do not know, my boyfriend Austyn and I have been dating 20 months this coming weekend. However, we have known each other and been a part of each others lives for 9 years now. On my 21st birthday of this past year he gave me a promise ring, promising both that one day he planned on spending his life with me AND that we promised to do whatever it took to withstand the trials of living across the world from each other for 2 and a half months. I am unbelievably happy with him and I don’t want anyone else in this world. He truly is my wind. He brings me not only someone to hold an be close with, but someone to will balance me. We bring each other back to Earth and always balance out our stronger personality traits. However, that does not mean that we agree on everything or communicate flawlessly. We happened to have an argument for most of Monday. I’m not going into details and no one should take it as a sign of weakness in our relationship. If we did not talk about our differences or feelings, we would not be the amazing couple that we are. Not to mention we hardly ever argue. Anyway, my point is, that Austyn is one of the few people in the world who I feel completely free in speaking openly too. A good relationship should have no secrets, no words unsaid, and no manipulation. While the release of energy and emotion is draining and almost never feels good, if people had no one to speak freely to without worry or fear in order to express emotion, we would all be bottled up angry and resentful human beings. Because I do not fear that Austyn will leave me, judge me, or manipulate me for my thoughts and feelings, I am able to communicate to him in way I cannot to anyone else but my close blood family. Only that level of love can provided from another human being can truly allow people to free themselves of pent up human emotion. While arguing is ugly and should never happen regularly, I can honestly say if we never argued, Austyn and I would not be as close as we are now. For perfect example, once we were able to move on from the ugly conversation, we have both been much more uplifted with hope for us and love. Our conversations have been positive and full of meaningful conversation and laughter. No human is perfect and no one can be perfectly happy and wonderful all the time. Like the beach, there is no beach without breaking waves bringing the sand. In order for me to all I can be, I need to express the harder aspects of life and being a human as well as celebrate the beautiful aspects of life and being a human. Sharing both experiences with Austyn (even though he has brought down my number of hard times by 99%) is what makes our relationship such a part of me. He makes me smile like no one else can, he always knows what to say, or when he needs to let me just talk, he treats me like a princess, respects me, and makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. He balances me and builds me into a better person. It is my hope that everyone I care for in this world can find ‘their Austyn’. Leading me to my fourth lesson: Home can be found in our significant others

So this has been long and ridiculously emotional compared to my other posts and I should probably stop. If you made it to here, thanks for sticking with me even though I just talked about myself for a really long time. I’ll go now and we can only hope that my next post is less philosophical. Enjoy pictures of the aquarium!

Goodnight Australia


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