It seems like time has moved so quickly since January. I feel like I just arrived, when in fact I’m leaving Prague in less than seven weeks. I graduated just over a year ago. I have friends still at Grinnell who will graduate in a few days, and it breaks my heart to think of what they’ve been through in the last few weeks. Two instances of hate crimes that targeted women, the queer community, students of color and students with disabilities occurred; many of my friends still on campus are active and proud members of these groups. To know that they have been targeted (and not for the first time–I’m thinking of another specific group of incidents that occurred my junior year involving the queer community and its allies) makes me furious. These are people who go about their lives, being who they are, and even that simple fact makes some members of our community–whether on campus or off–think they have the right to harass them. It’s a cowardly thing to do, and displays nothing but ignorance and intolerance.
The Grinnell community is also mourning the loss of a student who died in an accident at a track meet. I did not know him personally, but again, I have several friends who did. To add the loss of a friend on top of everything else that has gone on, as well as the stress, relief and confusion of graduation, seems even more unfair than it would be under normal circumstances. I wish that I could be there as support or comfort, but right now I am thousands of miles away and selfishly absorbed with my own thoughts on leaving a place that I’ve made a life. To whoever is reading this that isn’t a Grinnellian, please keep them in your thoughts.
Leaving Grinnell for Prague was much harder than leaving Prague for Chicago will be, but I am still slightly saddened by the idea. I take a long time to settle in places–I always have. I think it took me about six months to really be comfortable here in Prague, and now just a few months later I’m getting ready to pack up and leave. The weather here has been rainy for the last two weeks, but before that the cherry blossoms bloomed, the weather was beautiful, and I had a hard time remembering why I had decided to leave in July rather than October or November, when the skies are perpetually grey.
Being abroad for a year has been hard–I think that anyone you asked would say the same, especially if you do it alone. But there are advantages to that as well. I have learned to spend more time on my own and to do the things that I want to do, regardless of whether or not I have someone to do them with. That’s certainly not to say, though, that my favorite moments here haven’t been ones like paddleboating on the Vlatava on a late Saturday afternoon.
It seems unfair for me to be living this life right now, when so many people I know are hurting. It’s a privileged year, and I’m well aware of that. I may never again have this kind of unencumbered opportunity; someday there may be a person (or more likely an animal) that depends on me, there may be a job that I can’t just walk away from to travel. I think if I were to stay in Prague any longer, my life here would be one that I couldn’t walk away from so easily. It will be hard enough to stretch the ties I’ve made here across the ocean; my friends from home will tell you that I do not excel at long-distance communication.
But I think about my own graduation and how lost I felt for weeks after that, and I think about how, somehow, I’ve managed to stay in touch, however infrequently, with the people who matter to me. I think that when all is said and done, both I and my friends who are graduating this week will be able to remember the parts of these places that we loved. There were hard parts, perhaps even devastating parts, and those should be remembered too. I hope, though, that we will be able to remember the people we cared about rather than the things that hurt us.
Lots of love to the Grinnell class of 2010 and the school in general. I’m thinking about you.