The past few days have been hard for me. I’ve been counting down the days until I have to leave Russia knowing that my time is slowly drawing to an end while I helplessly watch. Russia means so much to me and I keep feeling like my departure is premature especially since I have just gotten a better handle on the language and culture. I’ve been dreading the 28th of May for a while and, since I’m not the best at handling negative emotions when I first feel them, I was going about the situation completely wrong. I felt bitter, almost scared of going home; what if all the personal developments I made here vanish when I leave? What if I can’t stay in touch with the amazing people I met here? What if I forget everything I’ve seen and done? Most terrifying of all, what if I leave with regrets about not doing and seeing more? All those confusing and negative emotions led to me having more than one breakdown of tears and sadness. This is not easy to admit but it’s true.
Today I had a revelation, however. Aided by the beautiful weather and some ABBA music, I shifted my perspective: yes, it is sad to leave and I will miss my new friends and this magnificent and mystifying country, but I have grown so much and pushed past so many boundaries here. I have grown from being shy around new people to be outgoing and confident in myself around strangers. I have started learning Russian and made incredible progress. I have been so far outside my comfort zone I don’t even remember where the old boundaries were. I’ve spent more time in Russia than most Americans will ever spend here. These are all things to celebrate and be proud of, not mourn the loss of.
Yes, I will still cry when I have to go to the airport on my final day, and yes I will cry when I say goodbye to my incredible friends and fellow adventurers, but I will do so in a more positive way, knowing that just because I leave doesn’t mean that everything has to change.
Now that I got the super emotional stuff out of the way, let me elaborate on just what is so special to me about my time in Russia:
First, I consider myself mostly introverted and that hasn’t changed, but my ability to socialize comfortably has changed. I will admit I had a hard time in the past accepting that people I didn’t already know would like me and spend time with me. This leftover remnant of my less confident days would hinder friendships that I could have formed but didn’t let myself partake in. When I came to Russia all alone I could not hide behind my pre-existing friendships and refuse to open myself to new people. I quickly realized that I would only succeed here by being more outgoing than ever before and some of the greatest friendships I’ve had come out of that change.
Next, I like the freedom and independence of Moscow. I am very independent at home but living in a big city is nice because I know I will never see most of the people again and I am just another one in the crowd. I much prefer this lifestyle than knowing everyone in a town and always feeling judged or recognized. It’s nice to be anonymous sometimes! There is also so much freedom that comes with public transportation. I miss driving my car wherever I want or need to go but public transportation is incredibly useful too; I also have really enjoyed not needing to buy gas.
Finally, there is always something new and educational to do around Moscow. There are so many other cities with tons of museums and parks like Moscow but knowing I am in Russia makes it so much better. Every day I learn at least one thing new and a lot of that is due to interacting with Russians or existing in historical places like the Kremlin. I love Russian people too; I always wonder where they have been and what they have seen in their lives, especially the older generations who lived through the Soviet Union.
Of course, I will also miss more specific things like a certain bookstore, restaurant, or metro station. It’s all the little and big things that add up and make you fall in love with a place and I truly love Moscow after my four months. I am excited to be home too however because I miss your friends and family and professors and my dog but it is sad to say goodbye to four months of memories, laughter, smiles, and even some tears. Thanks for a great time Moscow; this is only Пока́ for now, not forever!