Once upon a time, a young girl from a big city somewhere in the southern hemisphere, decided upon an adventure.
So she went to live in a teeny tiny rural town, a village almost, somewhere in the northern hemisphere.
She was seventeen. And she went for a year. On her own. As an exchange student. She didn't really know what she was getting herself into. I mean, a year! She left her parents, her friends, her school, her life, and went to live in a foreign country. Her friends thought she was mad. After all, she was a shy little thing, a bookish sort, not sporty, not adept in small talk. They feared for her.
But do you know what she did? This young girl?
She re-invented herself. Because she could.
No one knew her in the new country. She had not been labelled or stereotyped as the clever but shy, slightly dorky one, the one who was always picked second last in PE when the captains were picking their teams.
She was free to be whoever she wanted to be.
One of the things she did when she arrived at this new family, in this new town, at this new school, in this new country, was that she introduced herself to people using her full name. Not the shortened one that had been thrust upon her by her schoolmates. And that felt important, for her new beginning and all. And although it was hard, she talked and talked until it came naturally, easily, and she lost the shy label. (She had a head start after all, as she was labelled the exotic, foreign exchange student.)
This young girl went from a big city, to a tiny rural town. From being the eldest child of two, to the baby of four. From being the quiet tongue-tied one, to the whole town knowing her name. She grew up that year.
She bonded with her new wonderful, loving, accepting family. Especially her new sister, as neither of them had ever had a sister before, but as they confessed to each other at the end of the first week, each of them had always wanted one.
She made wonderful, lifelong friends. Two in particular. One who comes and goes in life and who she worries about, all these years later. And another, with whom she has been in constant, regular and loving contact ever since. Who is still one of her dearest friends.
And she fell in love for the first time. Halfway through her year there, he broke her heart. And at the end of the year when it was time to leave, she broke his. She nearly stayed, but she didn't. He nearly came to her, but he didn't.
Twenty years later, the tiny graduating class of 40 students, of which she had been a part, held a reunion. The young girl, who was no longer a young girl, gathered her pennies, and flew across the ocean.
She talked and talked and talked (because it came naturally, easily now) and hugged her friends, and her beloved sister and brothers. And she talked with and hugged her old love, and spent a day with him.
And lo, it was good.
And then she flew back across the ocean. She ran off the plane and into the arms of her husband and three little boys.
And lo, that was really really good.