There is a midrash, a small Jewish story of wisdom, about the wise King Solomon of the ancient kingdom of Israel. He had a cocky servant among his court who he wanted to set up for failure so that he might bring him back down to humility. The king demanded that the arrogant servant find for him a ring that, unknown to the servant, did not really exist. The king asked for a ring that made him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy. The servant searched far and wide and was unable to find this ring. As he walked back to the king’s court just before the deadline the king had assigned him, resigned to his fate, he came upon an old jeweler’s workshop he had passed by before. He told the old man about his mission, and the man picked up an old silver ring, carved three words in it, and gave it to the servant. When the servant arrived at the king’s feet, ready to present this ring that the king had made up, the king was happy, thinking that his servant had failed and would now be humble. The servant presented the ring, and the king read the three words, and his happiness turned to sadness. And then, just as quickly, he turned happy again. The ring read, in Hebrew, “Gam Ze Ya’avor.” This too shall pass.
This is my favorite midrash, and my rule for life — I wear it on a ring on my finger every day. It’s a Jewish way of espousing the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence — nothing lasts forever. And here I am, with a few short days left of study abroad (and two weeks of traveling) until I go back to the states. I remember back in July, when the weeks moved so slowly and it seemed I would never get here. Now, in what has felt like the fastest four months of my life, I am left wondering whether I did my best to appreciate it. I wonder: Did I spend too many nights lying in bed reading and not enough out in the city? Could the weekends spent hungover from the night before been better put to use exploring? Did I make the most out of my friendships, did I achieve my goals, did I have a “life-changing experience” like the study abroad office claims I should have?
I don’t know.
But I do know this: I had fun. I learned Spanish. I made some great friends. I traveled on my own for the first time. I drank more wine and ate more steak then I knew was humanly possible. I lived like a hedonist, I read for pleasure, I drank with breakfast and I wasted away hours upon hours in cafes. I knew it wouldn’t last and so I did what made me happy. To paraphrase Little Miss Sunshine, I did what I loved, fuck the rest. And now it’s back to the real world.
It’s scary to go home. I’m going to be “that asshole” who can’t stop speaking in Spanglish. For a few days, I’ll be astounded when cups of water with ice are refilled for free at a restaurant, or when I can eat something other then eggs or steak for lunch. I’ll be uncomfortable NOT kissing people on the cheek when I greet them. I’ll whine and bitch about how Buenos Aires is better then Fairfax or Evanston or wherever I am. I’ll grow nostalgic for the things I don’t even like: the way I have to avoid dog shit on the sidewalks and the way I try to walk with my head down and shoulders hunched to avoid attention from overzealous men.
I guess I should have been more prepared for this bittersweet feeling. I knew this trip wouldn’t last. I just didn’t expect it to end so soon.