Time always clears head, changes perspective

Columnist and Columnist

Distance and solitude have a way of changing hearts.

This is always something that I’ve known. It’s always been sitting silently at the back of my mind, waiting for an opportunity to make itself clear. When I entered college, I was so sure about what I wanted to do, but the more I think about it, as time has marched on, I’ve only grown progressively less sure of who I am and what my purpose is on Earth.

To be completely honest, improving my French was only half the reason I decided to study abroad and a weak half at that. If anyone had the opportunity I was fortunate enough to have, I think most people would take it. Whether their reason is to meet new people, learn about foreign cultures or to forget Ohio and all our problems for a few wonderful months, which is why I went.

Once the splendor of being in another country wore off, I found myself confronted with the same issues that have always plagued me. I have a poor overall opinion of my appearance and of myself in general at times. I feel incredibly awkward in most social situations, I drink too much, I don’t know if there is a God or what form it takes and I am lonely.

It was naive of me to think solving such a wide array of problems could possibly be as simple as stepping on and off of an airplane, but at least now I know this is the case. Whatever my issues though, I promised myself I would have a good time despite what went on back home before I left for Tours. It helped me to think more deeply about why my issues are what they are and how to solve them, but it still wasn’t enough.

A few weekends ago, we took a bus ride to Normandy (in northern France) to see the American cemetery from WWII and a military museum at Caen. We stayed a night in a lovely hotel on the coast called La Marine, but what I enjoyed most about the trip had nothing to do with museums or statistics, or a misplaced regret I have of not continuing my family’s military tradition. What I enjoyed most was a climb up the cliffs. When we got to the summit (some friends and I), I sat down and admired the breathtaking sights.

The world extended in all directions; from the seaweed-strewn shore to the chalky white houses, from the mossy rocks to the withering autumn meadows. Below me, the ocean spoke in salty whispers and calming swells. Rising, falling and flowing, I realized how this related to life. I closed my eyes and stuck my fingers into the soil and all at once, the emotional and existential maelstrom of doubt and sadness that had been drowning me washed away like seawater.

The death and violence that transpired on that beach so long ago hung in the air like a wound in the human spirit, but strangely, there was such peace. It was as if I could feel a pulse in the Earth.

It was as if the sky was breathing and telling me to do likewise. With every breath I took, with every one of my tears that fell on the high grass, that tide that had been telling me that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t deserve happiness sank lower and lower.

When I opened my eyes and felt the sun on my back, I was free of it all.

This experience changed me greatly, but for the better. I felt then something that I was only able to put into words once I returned to Tours. The connection I felt with nature and with myself was spiritual. This has done nothing to convince me of what religion I ought to follow. It’s done nothing to solve my problems. It’s done nothing to make me surer of anything about my future, but it offered me something far greater. I felt whole. For the first time in my life, I wanted nothing and as long as that knowledge and peace are with me, there is nothing I cannot do.

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