A Word On Leaving A Place That Has Your Whole Heart

… knowing you may never get to come back to it.

By Joanna Leigh

I was never much of a crier. This morning I remembered back to a point a few years ago when I could truthfully say I had only cried twice in a year. A WHOLE YEAR. I’ve cried more than that just this morning.

But then I also realised maybe I just didn’t have anything real to cry about and now I’m neck deep in a love for a place I grew up berating. And I feel like I’m going to drown.

So I fell in love with America in a way that tells me it won’t feel real when I get back home; like I’m living in some incredible fairy tale where I am really happy (despite those few times I wanted to die) and I have these amazing people surrounding me in this beautiful place. Not that Wales isn’t beautiful and I don’t have amazing people there, too. It’s just that Boston really does feel like a fairy tale.

Despite berating America for the majority of my life I had always had a dream to live in New York in a penthouse apartment that overlooked Central Park (great goals @12 year old me, even if I now realise that would be hell). So when I had the opportunity to come over here (thanks to my home uni and my incredibly kind parents lending me way more money than I care to think about) it was an idea I immediately jumped on and applied without thinking much of the consequences; maybe I didn’t think I would get accepted or maybe I am just an irresponsible brat who doesn’t consider the future, who knows?

Anyway when it came down to it I did not want to come over here at all. All I could think about was leaving my friends and going off to this strange place that I could hate and I’d have to stay there for a whole year and Americans are dumb and ignorant and arrogant and Donald Trump lives there, right?

But I was too proud to pull out of the programme so I came anyway, balling my eyes out saying goodbye to my best friend and to my brother and then proceeding to cry for the entire plane ride over here. In hindsight I should not have watched Big Hero 6 (a film about a boy losing his older brother) or Home (a film about a girl losing her home and her mother) on the flight but you win some, you lose some, I guess.

I also should have seen the whole saying goodbye process as a big old foreshadowing for the year (as a literature student I am especially disappointed in myself). In other words, I should have realised that something as emotionally taxing as moving to a different continent with absolutely no one on the other end was going to make me cry. A lot.

But the thing is, it was wonderful. As I said, I’m living in a fairy tale. I’ve been on Cloud 9 most of the time I’ve been out here (other than the aforementioned ‘wanting to die’ thing) but my time on the cloud is about to run out and I’m going to freefall all the way to the ground.

I’m sure, as with freefalling, there will be some time for me to feel euphoric; arriving home and seeing all the people I love again will be absolutely grand. But holy heck when I hit the floor it’s going to hurt for a long, long time. I don’t know how exactly I’ll recover and I’m sure there will be wounds that will never fully mend. Not that I mind carrying around a few scars from my time here, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

I’m just so worried about my future and I haven’t even graduated yet. With America’s strict immigration policies and especially with the ever looming threat of our pal Donald getting into power is there any way I’ll ever be able to get back into this goddamn country?

I almost wish I’d had a terrible time of it and couldn’t wait to be home but I’d be lying to myself if I said I was looking forward to it.

So I consider my options:
1. anchor baby
2. green card wedding
3. getting a real job with an American company that would pay the money to sponsor me for a work visa

And the first two, while morally abhorrent, seem so much easier than the third. An Uber driver named Cory offered me a green card wedding a few days ago: I’m sure I could find someone to help me out. The third one takes hard work and determination and a resolve that I’m scared my mental health will break.

Anyway, the point is that no matter how hard I work for it there is always a possibility that I never get to come back here and that thought fucking terrifies me. It’s breaking my heart. Like every day I get closer to coming home, it feels like the tiny men that only live in my body to hurt me are sawing away each individual sinew of my heart, until my whole body just drowns in blood because my heart can’t pump it anywhere useful.

I don’t want to leave this beautiful city that feels more like home than anywhere else ever has. I don’t want to leave the wonderful people that I know from here. I don’t want to accept that this will never be the same and there are people I may never see again and things I have already done for the last time.

I’m only 21!! I shouldn’t have done anything for the last time, except maybe wet the bed and other things you grow out of when you leave childhood (although I guess as I’ve always thought that I’m gonna die before I’m 30 it makes a lot more sense).

I also shouldn’t have seen any of the people I love for the last time, yet with some of them living on literally the opposite side of the planet, it seems unlikely I’ll be able to see all of them again. And while it does feel incredible to know that I have friends almost wherever I go in the world (and the free accommodation is a nice perk, too), it’s terrifying to think that I have some friends that I’ve already said goodbye to for the last time.

There is no way I can put this entire year into words other than to say that I’ve made a home out of this place and the people in it. And leaving it is probably going to break my little heart into a million tiny pieces.

So I guess what the point I’m making is that studying abroad ruined my goddamn life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.