When I landed in South Africa, in 2006, I was a very naïve, wide-eyed, and extremely jet-lagged 17-year-old girl. I remember lying in bed on my second night there, crying. Nearly a year, so far away from home, felt extremely daunting. I silently wished away time and cursed myself for jumping so far out of my comfort zone.
This attitude did not last very long when I quickly realized how blessed I was and just how fast time flies. Before I knew it, 3 months had passed and I was moving in with my second host family. It felt again like I was leaving home. Then, another 3 months later, I was moving in with my 3rd and final family. Each of my families brought me in to their homes as one of their own. Asking only that I be an active member of the family in return. I was known, snuggled, loved and introduced to their friends and family as their “American daughter.” My moms made me my favorite meals, my sisters and I sat up for hours talking about boys, my brothers wrestled with me, and my dads each took the time to take me exploring.
The year was gone before I knew it. When it came time to fly back to the States, I now had the tearful task of saying goodbye to not one, but three families. I could not have asked for a more adventurous, genuine, unforgettable time. South Africa still holds a very large piece of my heart.
Last week, as I had just finished dinner with the family I am living with in Germany, I felt a sudden pang of sadness. This time, not because I was scared and sad to be away from home for another year, but because I knew how quickly it would pass. I had a flash-forward to next fall, when I would be once again packing up all my belongings and ruefully hugging loved ones goodbye.
Realizing just how quickly time flies is a gift. It is a priceless gift of mindfulness, genuine relationships and purposeful exploration. In my journey from South Africa to Germany, and a few places in between, I have learned the key to life and adventure is not more time. It is taking the time we have more seriously, and doing more with it. Each day has a million excuses and fewer tomorrows. So quit stalling and wishing away time. Jump out of your comfort zone, try, do, explore, and don’t follow your dreams, tackle them.
*Title from my favorite song by http://www.themosaicquartet.com