I’m going to Slovenia this summer — a trip made possible by the rejection from a much-desired internship. The main emotions I feel towards this trip are excitement and gratitude, but as I continue to anticipate the arrival of July 13, I find myself reminiscing on the memories I last made while there and am met with a mix of emotions as a result.
Some days ago, I reread the messages Amaranta — a friend I made in Slovenia who is from Argentina — sent me over messenger after I posted my “2.5 Generation” blog post. Her words took me back to the time we went on a walk together. Although we had originally planned to go hike Šmarna Gora, I enjoyed our alternate plans of walking in a nearby hilly park much more.
It was springtime; the trees were green and vibrant; the sun was warm; I was at peace. We had great conversations all along the trail and even found our way out to a stunning view of the city, a church, and a neighboring hill. I could’ve stayed out there all day, sitting in that grassy field admiring the view with the sun shining down. At the end of our walk, we stopped by Vigo (my favorite ice cream shop in Ljubljana) and were hit by an unexpected downpour. We sought shelter, laughed about the whole ordeal, and later said our goodbyes at the Dragon Bridge.
That was the only time Amaranta and I spent time together one-on-one, but it is a memory I cherish — one that lifts me up and makes my heart smile. That memory also reminds me of the wonderful privilege I had to be able to live in Slovenia for nine months.
I often find myself missing the times I had there. I miss the people, the friendships, my language school, the ability to hop on a bus and get to wherever I needed, walking to the grocery store, my Bible study group, my family — a lot. When I think of returning this summer, I remember all the friendships and memories I left behind. Although I was ready to go home when the time came, I can’t deny that there have been many times I felt an intense longing to go back.
The thing about an experience like the one I had is that, while yes, it is incredibly enriching and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, it’s an experience that cannot be replicated. I can go back to Slovenia; I can visit all my old friends and favorite spots; I can hike up Šmarna Gora again, but everything will be different. I don’t think this is a bad thing; it’s simply the reality of the situation.
The emotions I feel towards Slovenia are hard to articulate. It’s like trying to describe the way a song makes you feel — a song that takes you back to a specific memory or place or time in your life. I have a few songs like that — songs that take me back to Slovenia.
Young the Giant’s discography is one example. Their songs often fill me with nostalgia and flood my mind with specific instances and images from the past. Even more so because the band is from Southern California, and I listened to their music on repeat after I had made my decision to attend Azusa Pacific University. Their music from the album Mind Over Matter takes me right back to the room I stayed in at Teta Nada’s house after a medical debacle: the various songs blared in my headphones while my decision to move to California in four months sunk in. The excitement, the surprise, the mixed emotions I can’t put into words but a mood that their music so beautifully and perfectly captures — all because I happened to be listening to them at that time.
Remembering the future and anticipating the past. That’s the best way to describe it. I know it doesn’t quite make sense, but that’s why it fits. I’m not sure there are many people that can relate to this feeling. If there are, I haven’t met them. And if perchance we have met, I didn’t have the time or the opportunity to share how I truly feel (or perhaps I simply wasn’t vulnerable enough).
It’s been three years. A lot has happened. We’re all older and hopefully wiser. The passing of time always gets me. Time itself, though a normal, crucial part of our universe, is all the same exceptional and incomprehensible. I am always so amazed when I think about the amount of time that’s passed. But why? Because it moves so quickly? I suppose. (I know I’m not alone in that feeling).
Sometimes my heart aches when I think of my gap year — in a mostly good, longing, nostalgic, reminiscent kind of way. I’m sure it’s simply because I miss it and it was a beautiful time in my life. I’m sure I’ll feel that way about college once it’s over. Heck, I even felt this way when leaving my beloved job at Starbucks last summer (and I’m sure I will feel it more intensely when I officially stop working there and move on to bigger and better things).
All good things must come to an end. That’s life. But how wonderful to think that even these little heartaches from little losses and little goodbyes won’t be present when we’re in heaven, praising our King and Savior from everlasting to everlasting.
Thank you, Jesus.
All that said, I am incredibly grateful for my heritage and proud of where I come from. It’s easy enough to embrace my American side having grown up here (but I will say that it took me a long time to get there). There are many more obstacles to embracing my Slovenian side, however, when the country is an ocean away and I don’t speak much Slovenian. But I will try and continue to try.