Destroyer. Giantslayer. Doom of False Worlds. I am Death.

-Dresden Codak

Budapest, Final Night

Lately, I've been thinking a bit about the death and rebirth of the self. Not in the sense of true reincarnation, which I find myself, at the moment, unable to observe, but the smaller vagaries that take place within a single flesh-and-blood construct. Though one grew to become the other, I can hardly be considered the same person as my long-gone five-year-old self. Under normal circumstances, however, it is easy to stitch one's memories together and create a contiguous story of oneself. These are not normal circumstances. Tomorrow, I will awake at 4 in the morning and leave everything I have built since last August behind. My return to the US will constitute a paradigm shift, the close of this chapter of my life, and thus, an ending.

As such, I find myself obligated to draw some conclusions about what I have gained from my year abroad. So I will begin with the most clich├ęd sentiment: the people really are the same everywhere. Sure, cultures and ideals vary, but wherever one goes, they will find that there really are assholes everywhere. Fools, racists, jerks, xenophobes, and predators exist all over the world. Saying that we humans are ugly people who do ugly things is just as easy as espousing the opposite sentiment. Yet for all the damnations I can throw upon my own people, I cannot justly pretend to such negativity. I have seen too much of the good in people this year for that. The boy who talked to me every day before class during the weeks I needed it most. The teachers who helped me overcome the language barrier and earn passing grades. Most of all, the woman who decided to give the confused boy who visited her house for two weeks his second chance at having a host family.

Though my future selves will be sure to correct me on this point, I believe that I now see with relative clarity. Living bottled up in a town of 9,000 people gave me tunnel vision, and even the occasional international trip did little to correct it. Now, having lived in one of the greatest cities in Europe, I find myself face-to-face with the simple fact that the world is much more than I can ever comprehend. When I say I've never felt more lost, that's not a bad thing. I remember spending a great deal of time feeling trapped, so this is a pleasant change of pace. There are too many paths for me to get hung up on finding the "right" one. Now that I am preparing to enter college, a sea of possibility awaits.

As the sun sets for the last time on my exchange year, loss and anticipation battle in my veins. There is no stopping time from bringing everything to ash, but ashes are what phoenixes rise from.