Today is Monday, August 19, 2019.

The first day of the rest of all my life.

I am with my sister watching the sunrise over Lake Michigan from our favorite spot for the last time in a long time. Reminiscent of so many times before, the rising orange sun brings light to the night blue heavens above and calm waters below. But this morning is also very different. The countdown is now over. Today I am departing for Israel/Palestine where I will stay for one year. I am excited for the changes of the unknown yet sad to leave my known, my home. It is a feeling of being simultaneously empty and full, like a river waiting for the rains to come. I don’t know what to expect and that’s okay because there are some experiences in life that you cannot predict the outcome of, such as when you are solo traveling to a new place. It is here, in uncertainty, where the best adventures are born and the greatest lessons are learned. But one thing is for sure – I will miss my family and my friends here dearly. I already do!

A moment of peace like this is exactly what I need to begin a day I know will be stressful. I have all my official documents together so I’m good on that front but I still have to pack, and I remember I didn’t throw in my final load of laundry because I didn’t want to wake my dad up after I was out late with my friends, or print off the Arabic placement exam I will need to complete at some point during my connecting flight to Zürich. My grandfather is getting to the house at 09:00 (that means 08:40) and my dad is meeting us to leave at 09:30 so I will have to be ready by then in order to catch my plane in Chicago at 14:45. Even though I’m tired today it was worth it to see my friends, and even though I’m on a tight schedule, my sister and I first make time to stop at our favorite cafe for a nice breakfast.

I go to the library to print off my exam only to find the doors locked. They don’t open until 10:00 on Mondays. I ask a guy sitting in the shade under the tree if he knows where I can print something off right now. He does and directs my attention to a small shop on the same block across the street. I thank him and run across.

A golden bell rings upon entrance to the shop. The inside is cozy and smells like freshly cut wood. An old man with thick glasses stands behind the counter. I tell him my dilemma to which he replies, “no problem, just eee-mail it to us here,” handing me their business card. But there is one small problem; my phone is at the house charging and I don’t have enough time or gas to go back. I ask if I can use their computer instead. He lets me print but not pay, says its a gift from Israel. I insist and leave him $2 tip, if not at least for the two tips he reminded me of: always carry your phone and accept gifts as they are.

The drive to Chicago is relatively uninterrupted thanks to us accurately timing rush hour traffic. There is an hour before I have to leave so we stop for lunch at a restaurant we decide is too expensive and too long a wait to eat at, opting instead for some burgers and paninis. We don’t talk that much, only really about the food. I don’t know what to say. What is there to say? It’s just one year after all…

I cry at the airport. Even though it is hard, it is happening, and it’s happening for a reason. But the reason is nothing to be sad about! It should be celebrated. I’m out here getting my education, travelling the world, living this life I’ve been given to the fullest. Everything has led up to this moment.

I think back to this morning. I write watching the same sun set above the clouds not in Cudahy, Wisconsin but in Canada; I am sitting next to not my sister but a sleeping Swiss engineer, who will go straight to the office once we touch down. Do you see the similarities in the differences? The stars are so close I can nearly reach them. For now, though, I’ll reach for my pen to finish my exam.