Tuesday December 27, 2016

The Final Departure

As the ship pulled in and my alarm clock went off at 5:50AM, I couldn’t help but wonder how I was supposed to feel. There was so much going on in my head… this is exactly what I had been looking forward to, the moment of getting off the ship and seeing my mom standing there was something I had been dreaming about for a week or so. As I got up, still in my PJs, I made my way to the 9th deck where I was to meet my friends for breakfast. Walking into the dining room was like walking into a going away party, everyone was moving around everywhere, eating, drinking coffee, laughing and crying. It was 6AM and I was not expecting everyone to be so awake. After finding one of my friends, I stood with my french press in one hand and my coffee mug in the other taking in the 6AM chaos.  As my alexithymia (an inability to describe emotions in a verbal manner) set in, I couldn’t help but stand there and look around at everyone. How are you supposed to say goodbye to something that has become so familiar and like a home to you? I realized it wasn’t the place that I would miss most--honestly the slight constant rocking hurt my head--but what I would miss most would be the people I met. I began to understand what it meant when people would tell me: "it’s not the place that makes a home, but it’s who you’re with." As I looked around I realized I had found a home amongst all this chaos; a home on a 9-deck ship inhabited by 800+ people. I couldn’t describe my emotions out loud but I definitely felt them, all of them.

We then walked around hugging, laughing and crying and I made my way to the front of the ship with my two best friends I had made on the voyage. Looking out at the dock, parents were already standing there, some with signs, others waving. I called my mom and she said she was on her way and was almost there. It was funny because when I called it was 7AM and we weren’t even departing until 10AM. I told her it was ok and she said she just wanted to get there so that there were no setbacks. All I asked for Christmas was to be picked up in San Diego, California; looks like dreams do come true, even after traveling around the world.

Waiting to get off was difficult, but when our "sea" was called – Adriatic Sea – we all got our stuff and headed for the gang way. I knew that once I stepped off this ship, I was was entering back into a reality that had become unfamiliar to me. As we scanned our ID’s for the very last time and walked to where our baggage was, I couldn’t help but feel like I was launching on yet another adventure, except this one didn’t come with field programs or itineraries...no, this adventure was completely unplanned.

A man helped us put our bags on a cart and began to move them towards the exit. As we walked to the parking lot I saw my mom standing amongst all the parents. I waved like I had never waved before in the hopes that it would be exactly like the moment in my dreams where, in slightly slow motion, I would wave and she would see me, smile and cry. This is exactly what happened, except time did not slow down (but in my mind it did).

As I walked towards my mom, I realized that this was it. I knew the reality of what was happening wouldn’t truly set in for weeks, which is just how I work. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I didn’t even know how to talk to anyone. My two best friends, along with my mom and I, went to a Mexican place for lunch and did our final meal together for a while. After saying goodbye to my one friend, my other friend, my mom, and I went on one last adventure before heading to my grandparents' house in Arizona: a mission to find my friend a new bag! After going through two bags because the zippers kept breaking, we finally found one and then headed towards the airport. Saying goodbye to my first friend who left was so difficult, but reality started setting in as I hugged my other friend, turned around and walked out of the airport. I knew I would see both of them again, and probably soon, but it was going to be weird not eating lunch and dinner with them every single day. I knew I’d struggle, I just didn’t know when that struggle would start and I still don’t. 

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