My heart feels heavy.
My stomach is in knots.
But above all else, I am happy.
This might be one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure, writing this entry as I say goodbye to everything and everyone I’ve fallen in love with after three and a half months in this country.
I knew this day would come.
I guess I was just hoping it wouldn’t come so fast.
After all, all good things must come to an end.
My time is over in Jordan and I am unsure how I move on from here.
How do I go back to life as it was before when my life here has been changed forever?
Looking back, I find myself reflecting on the feelings I had before boarding the plane to Amman and how insignificant they were.
What if everything I wanted to be wrong about the Middle East and its people was true? What if I can’t handle all the harassment and the staring? What if everyone really is a terrorist and my school gets blown up? Worst of all, what if I’m one of those students who wants to go home??
I can sit here and laugh at myself, now, at just how ridiculous these thoughts were and I honestly can’t believe they even crossed my mind.
However, it’s not enough for me to sit here and say that not only have my thoughts changed about Jordan and this region but my life has changed, because it’s something no one can comprehend.
I don’t even understand and I probably won’t for some time.
The other day, someone asked me if I was ready to go home and it almost seemed like a joke to them when I responded: No. Jordan is home.
Did I ever imagine these words would come out of my mouth? Three months ago I would have told you no, not at all.
I never thought when I came to this country that I would be so deeply impacted by its people and its culture to the point that I would dread going back to my own country.
I never thought that the people I met at orientation three months ago would change my life so drastically and in such a short amount of time, and I sit and I think back to that moment and I wish I knew just how important these people would eventually be to me.
I never thought leaving this country would be one of the hardest things I would have to do.
And what I never thought about is just how hard it would be to come to terms with the fact that I might never see these people again.
Looking back, it’s funny yet almost cringe-worthy how I ended up with the people I now call my best friends. From asking Anfas the moment I met him if he was Pakistani to telling Shirzad to put on longer shorts in Wadi Dana because I saw way too much of his Muslim thighs to Junior prancing around Taj Mall in a fur coat and asking me if I would rub his belly in Aqaba.
It almost seems like we were so innocent and lost when we first met each other, and in all honesty, I feel like we’ve grown so much together over the last three months.
I’ve learned so much from Junior, Luyi, Jack, Anfas and Shirzad and I’ve learned so much about myself through the experiences I’ve had with them. Crying in the bus station watching Anfas pray, reassuring Jack that he would not get food poisoning from chicken boiled for 40 minutes, convincing Shirzad not to try to marry me and releasing my inner Asian with Junior and Luyi.
I don’t know what life will be like when I leave them but I can at least find a little comfort in knowing that the life I’ve had these last three months here and with them is something all my own and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I still don’t fully comprehend why exactly I came to Jordan, and looking back, I’m not sure I even know why I was drawn to this country in the first place. I don’t know why I ended up here of all places in this world.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, however, it’s not to question but be always thankful for the good things that come to you.
Reading entries from the beginning of my journey, I guess my biggest reason was to prove to myself and others that the actions taken by a handful of people here are not representative of this region and its majority religion.
Now I know just how pointless that reason was, because I know that I never needed to convince myself.
I think I knew all along that what I believed in my head about the Middle East was true, that it was just like the rest of the world with people who feel, think and live just like everyone else.
In reality, I think my biggest reason for coming here to the Middle East, more than anything, was to learn about and change myself.
I didn’t come to Jordan unhappy with how I was before I came here.
I didn’t come to Jordan to prove that a skinny little white girl could hold her own in the Middle East.
I think I just knew that there was more to life than this bubble I was living in, riddled with anxiety and fear.
It doesn’t take coming to the Middle East to face such issues.
However, I knew coming here would be a challenge for me but I wasn’t exactly sure just how.
Looking back, I’m still not sure just how challenging it was.
I feel like I fell so effortlessly into the swing of things here that the ways in which I ultimately dealt with my fear and anxiety sort of happened on their own.
It’s not to say that I’m anxiety-free since living in a region full of turmoil and sometimes creepy Arab men. In fact, I got lost the other night, alone and without a phone, and slightly panicked.
Then I realized where I was.
I was in Amman, Jordan.
I was in a city and a country full of people who would go out of their way to point you in the right direction if you looked even slightly lost.
A country full of people who would more than likely invite you in for tea and a meal if you simply knocked on their door.
A country full of people who always make you feel like home is right where you are and that you’re just an extension of one huge family.
It’s funny: for a couple of weeks leading up to coming to the Middle East, I began to wonder if I was in over my head and what I was getting myself into. Now I no longer think Jordan was the perfect fit for me.
Now I know that Jordan was where I was meant to be all along.
See you soon, Jordan.