On Friday, I squeezed into my trusty 1997 Toyota Camry (it was a literal squeeze as the car was weighted down with most of my worldly possessions), headed down Main St., stopped at the Graze drive-in on 9th for a breakfast panini and coffee, and hit the open road.
My time in Walla Walla, at least for the time being, is up.
My last couple of weeks in Eastern Washington were a whirlwind of bittersweet moments: training my replacement and finishing up my last shifts at work, crossing off a few last-minute items from the dub dub bucket list, saying numerous insufficient goodbyes, feeling like that alumna who had overstayed her welcome as all the new and returning Whitties at first trickled and then flooded into town.
In many ways, Walla Walla feels more like home to me than the town I grew up in. It’s where I met my best friends. It’s where I discovered my true interests. It’s where I first felt comfortable enough to really test, explore and become myself. It has shaped me more than I could have ever imagined or dreamed, and I hope I was able to shape it, too, even if only in little, barely perceptible ways.
Putting a definitive period (or at least a semi-colon) at the end of an experience like that is extremely difficult to process. I still don’t think it’s fully hit me that no, I’m not just leaving for summer vacation or studying abroad again, to eventually return to Whitman alongside all my friends, classmates and professors.
At the same time, leaving is something I know I had to do (and it helps that I have France and TAPIF to draw me away). I love Walla Walla, but so much of my love for it is wrapped up in Whitman. My time as a student there is over. It has to be.
The process of leaving—whether a person or a place or an experience—is always the same. No matter the circumstances of the split, you need to establish a certain degree of distance, one that is mental as much as it is physical. You need to be able to contextualize the experience, and appreciate it in that context, but not try to prolong it, for that only leads to dissatisfaction born from a necessarily unrealized desire to make things the way they used to be.
That’s what I’ll be working on, indefinitely, starting now.
In the mean time, I’ll be attempting to decide which of my possessions stay or go until they all fit in my overcrowded room! But that’s a post for another day. (Teaser: I’m a low-level pack-rat.)