Tonight symbolised the end of a chapter, the end of my exchange at Leiden University. Tonight we had the last of the christmas parties at the international student housing buildings, this was the last time we would all be together. Before we joined the bigger party I spent some of the most rewarding time with those who have been closest to me here. We unintentially re capped, reflecting and reliving all of our favourite moments from the last 4.5 months. It made us laugh and smile, and speak with a fervour that is rarely ever accomplished.
Along the journey so far I have loved watching myself change. I have gone through phases and moods, where from day to day, or week to week I can feel completely differently to how I felt yesterday or last week. This generally happens in short stints of a couple of days or a moment of clarity when suddenly I notice a difference in my mood, attitude or progress. Tonight made two things explicit. 1. As the goodbyes start and the suit cases are pulled back out we who are left behind receive the inventory. Finally more than one set of cutlery! A peeler, salt and pepper, tea, rice, quinoa, curry pastes and soups! The little luxuries that mean so much when living the student life. Luxuries we would not have bought for ourselves but to other people seemed vital enough or in surplus that as luck might have it we now take into our possession. As they are headed home speaking of having their meals cooked for them or a dishwasher to stow their plates in rather than rinse them ourselves. Tonight I started to say goodbye, and it felt real and sad, it’s so close to over. Whilst I am returning to Leiden after christmas I am returning to a very different Leiden, a Leiden without most of the people who have made the last 4.5 months the incredible experience that they have been. 2. We had discussed how the holiday season was bringing about not only some of our return ‘home’ – wherever that might be – but it also brings quite a few siblings and family members to us, here in Leiden. Tonight instead of watching on enviously as my friends were surrounded by their brothers, sisters and soon to be parents, tonight I looked at it with a constant smile on my face. My cheeks were sore from the radiant intensity of my grin. Tonight I held an appreciation for their affection, for their smiles and the way they act together, for the love they share and the joy, so evident through their interactions, at being reunited with their loved ones. I asked one of them “Did you know you would be this happy? Did you even miss him?” Her answer made me feel better, she said “No. Not until she saw him and then realised that she had”. Her unexpected behaviour kept me entertained all night watching them interact, and watching all pairs together naturally lead me to think about my own sister, my own family.
The holidays are a time to be with friends, family and loves ones. It is a time to revel in joy, happiness, generosity and love. As much as people insist upon the necessity to spend christmas with their families what they don’t realise is this…even solo, without any of the people I hold dearest to my heart around me I still feel these feelings. I am still surrounded by joy and love and cheer and affection and generosity! I am happy. I know I am loved. Sure I wish I could see my family, but unfortunately that is not feasible. So instead I smile and appreciate, thanking myself and the universe for giving myself this incredible opportunity to come and call Leiden my home for 5.5 months as a student. As Sarah flies home to Australia, Emily’s sister has come to visit and Elena’s brother and parents have arrived in The Netherlands that time we spoke about as far off in the distant future has arrived. It is terribly sad thinking that it is coming to an end, but it is incredibly rewarding to look back at the time and memories that we have had, and lets not forget tremendously exciting thinking about what is coming next.