I began this journey not knowing what to expect from it or how it would affect my life. I began this journey unsure about the future and unsure about my place in it. While the compass that points to my future still points true, its bearings have changed; the last six weeks have put me on a different trajectory. As our train passed over the border from Wales to England for the last time, I vowed to return. And if the stars align, return I shall – soon.
Six weeks ago, I understood little about Wales or about the Welsh people. I hoped this scholarship would allow me to understand its people, to discover its culture, and to find what makes Wales unique. Six weeks later, I better understand the Welsh people: their triumphs and tribulations of the past, their hopes and fears of the future, and their ever-changing role in this globalizing world. Six weeks later, I have discovered Welsh culture, whether it was learning about the Welsh language in Cardiff, singing the Welsh national anthem in Llangollen, or learning how to bake Welsh Cakes in Aberystwyth. And six weeks later, I have found the uniqueness of Wales and can adamantly say that anyone who thinks it is essentially the same as England is profoundly mistaken. But it was not just I who found Wales, but rather, it was Wales that allowed me to find myself.
In my first post this June, I mentioned how I am in the midst of a transitional period of my life, how my life is turning a corner from the last remains of childhood to the full promise of adulthood. It is a time when I have grand and lofty visions of my destination in life but the trail to get there remains shrouded in uncertainty. The last six weeks have given me more than just a contour of the trail to come. They have given me a new way to see the trail itself. This program has broadened my horizons and provided alternative perspectives through innumerable conversations with others, exposure to the lives of others through experiential learning, and cultivation of the rich academic soil upon which my intellectual curiosity will grow. With it, this program has opened the door to future growth and development for me as an academic and as a global citizen. To a large extent, the last six weeks have allowed my mind to have a life of its own as I was given ample time alone with my thoughts to entertain notions of what kind of life I wanted to lead and the kind of person I wanted to be. A combination of myriad different perspectives, topics, and these journals have led to a great deal more self-reflection than what I usually indulge in. The result is a more nuanced approach to my life going forward, a change displayed firsthand over the course of the fifteen chapters in this story.
Like my mind, this journal, too, has taken on a life of its own. While it occasionally became difficult to find time to write, it was always a labor of love. What started out as a simple way to record what I was doing day-to-day has practically become a full-fledged novel, clocking in at more than 65 pages and complete with its own character development, social commentary, and plot twists. And who knows, perhaps someday it may actually hit print. So to you, the reader, thank you for putting up with my often drawn-out descriptions, overly poetic prose, and biased commentary. It has been an unbelievable ride for me and I hope my writing has given you at least a small glimpse inside my mind and through my eyes as I tried to find Wales.
One of my favorite book series growing up was The Pendragon Adventure, by D.J. MacHale. While it was about a world that could never be because of its reliance on time travel and other worlds as plot devices, the books came at a very impressionable time in my life and so they had great influence on the development of my adolescent mind. Through Bobby Pendragon’s adventures, I was taught to always keep my footing, dream big, and most importantly, keep striving toward my goals regardless of the adversity. Bobby was known as a traveler, one who journeyed between worlds. The books came in the form of journals, told from Bobby’s perspective, chronicling his thoughts and actions as he traveled. One of Bobby’s favorite phrases at the end of each set of journals, was “and so we go,” a mantra that signified for him and for the reader a change of direction, but never in pace, of his adventures. He could travel in time, yet life kept progressing no matter if he wanted to slow it down or if he tried. His journals to communicate with those he loved back home served as a way to ground him to a life he once knew. It was his way to stay a part of a world he had long left.
As I sit here on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, traveling through my own space and time to a different world, I cannot help but relate to this fictional teenager. In these last six weeks, my worlds have grown by one. And each time I leave a world, I want to stop time or at least slow it so I can cherish just another second, just another memory in that world. But time, ever constant, drags me with it to the inevitability of another adventure. My newest adventure begins the moment I step off this plane and into the second half of my undergraduate career. I do not know where this new chapter will lead, but one thing is certain: this journey too will become woven by time into the fabric of my being, quickly becoming part of the larger mosaic that stitches my worlds into one, shaping my destiny. I cannot stop it. I cannot slow it. I can only hope but to embrace it. So embrace it I shall.
And so we go.