For the Ones Who Stay Behind
Packed luggage. Fretting over farewell presents. Loud and ensemble hangouts. Hurried goodbyes and slowed-down nostalgia.
Friends leaving for higher education abroad is a bittersweet experience most of us live through. Amidst all the chaotic excitement, there are those who secretly heave a sigh of wistfulness, thinking how they too could have been wearing those airport shoes.
Many of us dream of a lucrative overseas degree, with our ideas and aspirations being moulded culturally by movies and media that promise the grand college experience — a bustling campus, dormitory shenanigans, new city, friends and the freedom to be oneself.
So naturally, we prepare excitedly for this transition with meticulous care, but then for some of us, all these plans fall flat on its face when life gives us a reality check. A cold nudge, that amidst all the planning, we might have forgotten to make allowances for factors such as familial responsibilities, financial setbacks, ailment of a close one, or just any sudden curveball life throws at us, particularly aimed at these nascent dreams.
Years ago, such a life-altering episode had grabbed me by the shoulders. I had unsuspectingly ventured into a new country in pursuit of my own aspirations, but had been compelled to fly back home, to an ailing loved one. Seething with hurt and self-pity, I came back stripped off of the zeal that I earlier used to harbour towards life. Days turned to months and all I could think of was how I was stuck in a dead end, while all my friends had moved along.
In hindsight, truthfully, I probably needed that period of listlessness to allow myself to realign. Having a series of small epiphanies, I found myself trying to get back on track and making the best of the life that I did not pick but was gifted with.
I did not wake up one day all geared up to grab life by the horns, rather, it was a gradual process filled with relapses and recoveries, gaining strength to face it all and allowing myself to feel vulnerable again. I enrolled myself into a university here, aced my exams, made precious friends, and found my love for writing. I realised that with unyielding perseverance, life will entice again with a sense of purpose and the promise of brand new adventures.
Today, I can genuinely say that coming back home — a divine intervention — worked out better for me.
As our utopian fantasies run wild, let us not forget that there's a life waiting to be cherished and lived here too. There are opportunities to be explored, friends to be made and dreams to be chased, and one never knows when an opportunity of studying abroad might step in again. And if it doesn't, it's okay.
All of this optimism will usually jump out the window at the slightest inconvenience, but it should be on us to find the silver lining again, regardless of our GPS coordinates.
Iqra L Qamari is navigating life with a perpetual bewilderment and shock on her face. Reach her at [email protected]