Three years ago, my parents moved my baby sister and I out of our lovely two-story home in Woodinville, Washington and brought us to sunny Atherton, California. At first, I hated it, but after three years of living there I learned to love the warm weather and wonderful coastal cities. Then, out of nowhere, my folks dropped another bomb and this time a much bigger one. We were moving to France and ultimately England. At first it didn’t seem real. I thought of it as a joke, but then things became very real, very fast. From then on, I was scared. The day we first arrived in France, my life was over. I was depressed. I hated the place we lived, but, in the end, it made me a stronger and more capable person.
The plane bumped and jittered as it first touched down on the barren tarmac. The fasten seatbelt sign dinged off and the cabin came alive with groggy bodies. I dimly walked through the airport and stepped out into the cold to be received by the waiting car. I rolled down my window and felt the cold air on my face, but I was too absorbed inside myself to even notice the amazing city around me. I overlooked the hustle and bustle of evening life, the rich aroma of coffee that wafted out of an open café door, the foreign language all the people spoke with such elegance. Even the historic buildings and snow-capped Alps were all invisible to me. Instead of sitting in awe of these marvels, I rolled up the window and fell asleep content to wallow in my misery for a while longer. Even my dreams seemed to taunt me with visions of home and memories of times past. I awoke sometime later in yet another strange and mysterious world. The car was stopped in an icy driveway; Moonlight splashed on the ground giving it a milky appearance. The ice seemed to be alive constantly drifting in and out of shadow, as if it where a living breathing being. I opened the car door and the cold almost knocked me over, as if I’d hit a brick wall. It made my skin tingle, almost like pin pricks. I took a step and almost fell flat on my face as I skidded my way towards a drab looking house where I was to live for the next six months
It appeared as a simple two-story log house to me, but inside it was a luxurious French chalet with furs and fine furniture. Still, my eyes saw it, but none of it existed. I couldn’t accept that. Yet, for no real reason at all, I hated that place. Even though so many amazingly exquisite objects surrounded me, from the furry cow hide covering the gray slate floor, to the plush leather couch that looked like it would envelope me if I sat on it. Still, I shunned them for the simple fact that they were not home. A wooden spiral staircase wound its way upward. The wood looked worn and polished my many feet. None of it mattered; none of it was really there; none of it was home. As my room, I chose a small loft nestled above the kitchen. It was tucked away up in the rafters and I felt as if I could escape from all the drama up there. In one corner, was a small bed draped with a red duvet, but it only reminded me of how much I missed my own warm bed. In another corner was a desk made of a hard and rustic looking wood with strange patterns winding their way over its surface. I solemnly unpacked my meager possessions and placed them gingerly on the desk; my laptop, a major league baseball, a camera and a large hunting knife my uncle had given me. These five things were my little piece of home. There was a skylight in the slanted roof that was covered by snow, so from up here the outside world didn’t exist. I liked that. It made me feel as if no one could touch me; as if I could hide from the sadness. Overcome with jetlag and homesickness I climbed in bed and drifted off into a troubled sleep.
I opened my eyes and was greeted by a brilliant blue sky, and sun had melted away last nights dusting of snow. I rose and began carefully climbing down the ladder made of soft pine to the kitchen. The stone floor was cold to the touch and sent a shiver up my spine. No one else was awake, so I made myself some breakfast, sat down and let my mind wonder wherever it would go. The fresh French pastries my dad had bought on the way from the airport were delicious, but I didn’t dare acknowledge that. As the sun appeared over the snow-covered mountains, I decided to go for a walk. I grabbed my coat and stepped outside into a world of frost and icicles. The reflections from the sunlight blinded me at first and made my eyes sting. The bitter cold made my chest hurt with each inhalation and the clouds made by my breath froze onto things. Though I was surrounded by boundless icy wonder, it still took me months to realize it was there.
April came, four months since we first landed. I finally came to terms with my new reality. Running through the crystalline forest everyday helped me feel better about myself, as exercise always does. I began spending a lot of time taking pictures of the small, yet, beautiful winter birds. Their colors were amazingly contrasted against the wintery background. There were so many species that I had never seen before and I loved cataloging them, finding their foreign names, and learning their songs. I learned things about myself I never knew before. I learned how to deal with tremendous amounts of change; through my solitary 6-mile runs in the forest that started out as an escape, I discovered running as a gift to help me cope with stress and encourage me to be more independent. Most of all I learned ways of being resilient when times get tough. I learned I was capable of anything, if I set my mind to it. I still was bitterly homesick, but I Skyped my friends Isaiah and Jeremy and they brought me the news from back home.
A part of me was afraid that if we went back home all my friends would have forgotten me; that they’d throw aside past memories. I overcame the depression that was consuming me with my running and pursuit of being out in nature. I started to appreciate were we lived and what my new home had to offer. Yes, my parents moved me across the world. Yes, I missed my friends bitterly. But my eyes had finally opened and I was willing to see and enjoy the world around me and ultimately became a stronger person because of these things. I remember watching the first drops of water drip off an icicle and feeling warm for the first time in months.