I feel so old.
When a child hears their parents say that they get up in the morning, and don’t know how they got back into bed a full day later, they swear they’ll never be that way. When a child hears their parents say that no matter how many times they starts the dishwasher, it seems like they’re always reloading it, maybe the child helps clear the table, but won’t think anything more of it. When a child hears their parents lament never feeling caught up at work, and knowing that they’ll barely spend 12 hours at home before they start a new day headed for the office, a child sees the simple solution of choosing a job they like, and maybe it gives them motivation to do better.
I know seeing exhausted people, slaving to jobs they hate has driven me to make sure I’ll slave to something rewarding, and that because I know everyone else is just as tired as I am, I always help clear the table. But I’m still a child. And despite that, when I go to turn out the light, and reflect on my day in the darkness that still scares me sometimes I feel like I’ve lived three days. And despite that, when I get to friday (again) I wonder where my week went. The weeks melt into months, and suddenly, you realize that 10 days from now, you’ll have been gone from home for 3 months. That’s a quarter of a year.
The second wave of the same old questions, don’t you miss home? Don’t you miss your family? is hitting. I can’t put to words how strange it is to admit, a bit guiltily that the answer is still much the same. Of course some days, and lots of nights, I miss telling my mom goodnight, or watching tv with my dad, hearing my brothers shout at their video games. I miss falling asleep with my head tucked in the crook of poster covered walls, and waking up and remembering why I put each one there. Avril Lavigne, my canadian idol (no pun intended) that Dom gave to me for christmas two years ago, and the one from last year with a Bono quote ‘where you live should no longer determine whether you live’ under Africa. The John Lennon, an Audrey Hepburn, dad’s old Beatles poster I rescued, and the Tragically Hip plaque from their tour the week I was born.
A deeper analysis of my room might very possibly end in the conclusion of the content of my soul. But one way or another, that room will change when I get home, after I leave home, and even if it were to stay the same, it would look and feel different for the change in me.
Of course I miss having a space where I am in my own, with shreds of magazines for collages, my shoe collection, books I honestly do intend to read and half written songs are scattered on every flat surface. Of course I miss getting to hug my baby cousin (who’s rather quickly seeming less and less a baby), and not being scared that the next time he sees me on Skype, he won’t smile, and reach out, kiss the screen. Of course I miss waking up on Sunday mornings and fighting with my brothers and their assortments of friends because they didn’t leave any milk.
I miss the rotation of my week coming back to a supper table with my family around it, bickering, laughing hysterically, and acting our daily roles the the Theater of the Absurd.
And I say ‘I miss’.
But in all honesty, it’s not so much that I miss it, which suggests a longing, but it’s still more of a consciousness that what I’m experiencing is completely and utterly different.
We have a sit down supper every night, here in the white kitchen, say grace, and I can always tell how hungry the men are by which one they choose, because there’s a really short one. It’s still a family meal, and I know they actually care when I tell them how my day went, but it’s not my dining room, that usually still has decorations from some holiday of birthday in one orange corner or another.
Sunday mornings when I get up, I never have to fight with anyone about milk, or waking me too early, or needing the computer, because when I go downstairs whenever I wake, by bowl is set out. There are my chocolate flakes on the table, and I don’t have to share my laptop with anyone while I check my email, and work on whatever, quietly, until my family gets home from church.
My host brother is wonderful. He really is an amazing person, and I’m incredibly lucky that he’s the one that I spend the most time with of anyone here. But he’s the rule, not the exception to the strange coldness people here have. I’m breaking my new friends, my classmates into the habit of hugs, and some are taking the beating very well, I’m pleased to say. But the guys aren’t built like the guys back home, it’s like tending to a pine when you’re used to oaks. The girls are adorable, there’s no better word, but it strikes me as odd that we never laugh out heads off, never kidnap each other’s old comfy sweater.
As for the churning inside of a black hole that is my bedroom, I still have all those things, they’re just neatly filed away, in folders, drawers, containers, shelves, where they tend to be forgotten.
My room here is yellow. My room at home is blue with clouds on the ceiling. The only common factors are a butterfly I made back in second grade, my dream catcher that I’ve had since I was tiny, the japanese character for ‘friendship’ with one of the many angels Grammy gave me hanging from it, along with an behemoth of a teddy bear. Here, I have a row of dictionaries, a music stand and an entire shelf of National Geographic s at my disposal. They not at all, however, the ‘cut out interesting articles, and turn inspiring quotes into bookmarks, or, oh! that picture is the missing puzzle piece for my next scrap book page!’ kind of disposal.
This space, freshly rid of a coat of wrapping paper bits, and tape adhering to random angles everywhere, is my place here. It’s so permanent. It’s hard for me to grasp that the only difference anyone will see when I’m gone is one less row of textbooks, no saxophone case, an absence of cowboy boots and slippers, and that the months of the Toy Story calendar are full of past events.
Like going to see ‘Ta Bouche’ that it seems that Eva just started rehearsing for, just the other week in September.
Like the class assembly that’s going to hit us all with our first trimester marks like a ton of bricks on the fourth of December.
Like my flight date to Paris, the day after school lets out here. I won’t blink, and I’ll be on my way to Germany, ( <3 ) where I won’t be meeting up with a friend, who’s going home. He’s sick of going to bed with headaches from speaking a different language all day every day, for smiling, thinking at the end of your last course, I get to go home, and then not knowing where to find the vacuum cleaner. He misses faces that look at him, and smile at him, not ‘the canadian’. He’s tired of having to explain for 15 minutes before he can make anyone start to understand what he’s feeling. He has the strength to overcome his pride and say that this incredible adventure of ours isn’t for him after all. I can’t say how proud I am of him for that.
But I don’t wish I were going back with him.
If I were to go home now, I wouldn’t ever take the initiative to learn to appreciate electro)acoustic music that my friend Christophe is teaching me about. I wouldn’t see the old city ruins that I pass on my way to school everyday, nor will I see the butterfly museum in the old tower of Tourettes. I won’t get to see if the old stone house fixes their ‘moulin’ in the spring. I wouldn’t get to pick olives next week, or be eternally amused by a full state shut down if it snows this winter. I won’t know how my prépas exams go, and it wouldn’t seem wrong come next fall for my class to be 9. I would waste all the money left of my canteen card. I would miss the new years eve party with my choir, and I would only see pictures of Aurélien with his braces off. I would never see the carnival in Monaco with Greta, and I would never see the Chateau D’If in the spring.
I could give you a reason why one week after another, it would really be a waste for me to go now.
I chose this direction one year ago now. With the help of my mom, and Pépère, and the support of everyone around me, I’m carving this trail. I figure I might as well see it to the very end, and worst comes to worst, I’ll get to the top of this mountain, and find that I’ve come to a cliff, that I can’t go any farther. I’ll enjoy the sunset, and bask a little bit in the sun of what i’ve accomplished before I make my way back to start again. The way home is always going to be easy now, the trail is there, and after this, my hike should get easier, since I think this is the hardest road I could have chosen. I will bear in mind to wear sneakers, not ballet flats, since my blisters are only just healing now from my second day in Marseille.
That’s all inspiring, fancy talk to say that I’m too busy, too determined to make it on my own, to let home sickness catch up to me.
Exhaustion, on the other hand, is another story.
Tomorrow, we have the day off, but I’m getting up early for an Armistice ceremony, and then spending the afternoon getting ahead on my work for this week coming, since this week ends on the ‘lendemain’ which means the day after tomorrow. But next week, in turn will come soon enough, and I’m trying not to let it catch me off guard. Besides, I’ll be behind again by Tuesday, and by the time I get through another Wednesday, the week will practically be over.
Another week that is. Another week that missing anything won’t find a fissure to seep into.
And so it goes, and so I reply to them, I love this place, I’m finding new reasons every day to be here, and I’m so busy living each moment I’m here that I don’t really have the time or energy to miss home.
But my quota of time and energy for today has been spent. Lights out, again.
I really do feel old.