There is something I say when I stumble over my words. Or when I can’t find the right ones. When certain words do not seem to exist for certain emotions, feelings, or thoughts. Words are hard. Compiling words to describe the last year and eight months seems nearly impossible. There do not seem to be words for the things I feel as I say my goodbyes and give my last hugs. There are many things this place has taught me. Every experience is one we can learn from, our growth and our education (whether in a classroom or in the school of hard knocks) depends on what we put into it. I feel as though I gave everything I had for this place. I gave my all, and failed in a few places. It has reinforced the idea that to be successful you have to be willing to fail. It reinforced the idea that failing isn’t shameful, not trying is (cliché, yes, true, yes). Right before I moved to China, I felt I had finally figured out who I was as an adult. Then I jumped. I made the move. It took awhile before I began to find who I was in the context of a new culture and language and friends and all I had experienced. Then about the time I began figuring out who I was in China, it was time to jump again. So here I sit. Waiting to jump. It is like the feeling you get before jumping off a cliff into a lake. Or the feeling you get right before the rollercoaster plunges into a dark tunnel. I sit waiting to jump. Waiting to see what is on the other side of the unknown. Knowing that this is the direction I’m supposed to go, but not really why or what exactly will meet me on the road. I’ve read so many books about journeys and adventures. I’ve adventured and journeyed on my own. These have shown me that I do not know what I will see on the road, but to enjoy the journey. Roads can be long and words can be hard, but it doesn’t mean the road shouldn’t be taken or the words shouldn’t be said. Before I moved to China, my amazing friends threw me a going away party. We ended up turning into a bit of a jam session. They sang each of my favorite songs, regardless of how they felt about them (looking at you Dryer). One of those was, “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart. When I came back to visit in May, we had a few more jam sessions. I asked them to play the same song. It was a reminder to me that at that moment, it was the last time we would be together in the capacity we were together. It was a realization that I would be rivers and roads away from them for an undetermined number of hours, days, weeks, … years. As I listen to the song now, I am reminded of the days spent walking the streets of Western China. The adventures I’ve had in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh. I’ve been blessed to travel. I’ve been blessed to have so many amazing friends who I count as dearly as family. I am only separated by Rivers and Roads from those I hold dear. The road may be long and the words may be hard, but it doesn’t mean I will never cross paths with them again. Until then, I’ll say the words that are hard. I’ll drink in each moment with sweet friends like a tall glass of ice tea on a hot summers day. I’ll live each day I have left with them as though it will be our last together, being spontaneous and breathing in as much of their lives as I can possibly take in with each breath. It is now that I begin my journey back across Rivers and Roads to reach my favorites. My bests. My closest friends. The road is long, but I’ll be home soon.