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July 10, 2013 was an odd day. A flight was taking off Chilean soil and heading to The USA with an empty seat that my butt was supposed to be in. On top of that, there were those “could have been” flights that had already left in July and that I knew would leave in September.

The thing is is that, up to this point, while my emotions and experiences played out, my MKE arrival time kept shifting. A few months into my stay, I was happy and I didn’t regret my decision to come, but I felt that maybe, on my 3rd venture to explore South America, I had finally taken in whatever it was that I needed. I was missing the jive that felt so right about my friends, my career, my family, and my life back at home. My parents came to visit in December and I randomly shared that I was thinking of changing my flight to come home earlier in June. After their 2 week glimpse into my life abroad, I watched them get on the bus and head back home… to MY HOME…. without me. That was much more difficult than I imagined. For a bit, I felt very lonely and empty as I sat in my apartment. And then I remember looking outside, seeing the blooming summer flowers and the mountains in the distance, and I filled with this powerful emotion I don’t know how to describe. I felt proud that I was doing this on my own and excited to be living in this “new” city of 7 million people, discovering things about myself, this place, and humanity every day. I think that was a minor turning point because shortly afterwards I had to break it to my parents that, in fact, I would not be coming home earlier.

Time continued, I explored the city, I made friends, I did what I said I’d never do and started dating someone, and things, in general, slowly began to click. With my flight, I was allowed to extend up to the 1 year mark and a couple occurrences had me contemplating that option. The flight on September 4th was a little pest in my head, and, finally, in June I decided that I would be coming home in not June… not July… but September.

Shortly after that, before I officially switched my flight to September, June simultaneously blessed and plagued me with 2 of the the most incomprehensible shooting stars. The short of the story is that I was presented the option to NOT switch that July flight to September and just SKIP it all together. Of course, the end result was still coming home but the time frame was literally in my hands. This blind-sided me threw my “plan” upside down, bringing about all the nervous yet excited feelings I had when I decided to move here. I felt as if I was choosing to relocate all over again. While in my heart I think I always knew I would stay, it took awhile for my head to grasp and handle the concept.

The month of June was filled with at times teary, philosophical, and hypothetical Skype calls with my grandparents, friends, and family. I’ll now be staying through the summer here, strategically skipping another Wisconsin winter 🙂 I feel as if I have a new lease on my experience, a renewed opportunity to take in and grow as much as I possibly can. A reminder to continue taking pictures, to continue leaving what has become my new “norms,” to continue reaching for higher goals, to continue my personal, professional, and world exploration.