As many of you may know because I overshare on social media, I recently left Europe after a 3 month study abroad program in Belgium. And as I sat trying not to cry at my gate at Brussels Zaventem Airport, a friend advised me to let gratitude prevail over sadness. And while this does kind of sound like a more poetic version of “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”, I think it’s so much more than that.
What is gratitude, really? It’s being grateful, it’s being thankful, but it’s those feelings in action. I don’t think gratitude is something you can just sit with. It’s something you do, you practice.
So what am I grateful for? Firstly, as I already mentioned in my previous post, the friendships I made. I’m also grateful for the Europeans I met and befriended in my sojourn. Y’all know who you are. I’m grateful for the places I saw, that I am privileged enough to have the opportunities and resources to travel so much at a young age. As much I complained about it, I’m also grateful to have been in Europe during Trump’s administration. As deeply flawed as this country is, as the daughter of immigrants I can’t ignore everything it gave me, and there is a part of me that wants to show the world that there is still good here, that America is so much more than angry white, hateful men. I’m glad I got to represent America as a brown girl who wants so much more for her adopted country.
And last, but definitely not least, I’m grateful for the person I became over the last semester. I did things I thought I would *never* do. I stepped so far out of my comfort zone, I don’t even remember what it looked like. My goal of being the “fanfiction version” of myself actually came true. And I intend on continuing to make her proud.
After all of this, I think the best way to choose gratitude over sadness, continuing to make new experiences instead of grieving for the ones that are over, is to remember that at the end of the day, yes Europe is a wonderland for a girl who grew up in suburban New Jersey, but it’s not the end, and the most magical place in the world is nothing without the people in it.
So here’s my plan. I’m going to keep being the girl I wrote about in high school. Maybe even a better version of her. I’m going to let these friendships unfold, whatever direction the universe takes them. I’m going to continue to collect stories. I’m not going to waste time on endless, empty nostalgia. I’m going to remember who I was at this time, what made me happy, what and who I loved, and I’m going to keep doing it. And that’s how you choose gratitude over sadness.