And yet I have a massive, Europe-shaped hole in my heart. I don't think about it very often, but on occasion, I'm practically slapped in the face with how much I miss it.
Sometimes I'll be walking across campus in the fog, and I think of Belgium. The stone pathway clicks familiarly beneath my boots and my well-used trench coat hugs me tight. I can feel the wetness in the air and my fingertips get numb with each passing moment, so I shove them in my pockets and continue forth just as I did when I would walk to the train station in Brussels.
Often, I'll hear a song from one of my travel playlists. I won't tell anyone which songs those are because they are almost like a diary of how I was feeling at the time, but now when I hear them I get melancholy. Sometimes it provokes a tear, but mostly I just grow homesick and bear it as silently as possible. It's silly to be homesick for a place that holds so many bad memories, isn't it?
Isn't it crazy that I love a place so much when I so hated it at the time? I wanted to be nowhere but in happy, "perfect" America. I knew it would be the ticket. And to be honest, moving here did help me. I was able to figure myself out in a comfortable, known environment, and I'm so much happier now than I was at the time. But now I realize that I need to experience the parts of Europe that I loved so much, but this time with my refreshed and God-changed heart.
I loved my Belgium so much. I merely hated my situation, and I still do. I'm not bitter anymore, praise be to God, but it is right and good that I hate the circumstances for they are ugly and broken. But I love what the Lord has done in my heart and I want to share it.
I want to walk through those old, familiar streets and smile at passersby because I have something to smile about it. I want to look beggars in the eye and give them a euro or two, or maybe just a hot sandwich. I want to speak to shopkeepers in my broken French and eat all the good food I can stuff into my belly. Maybe sit by a fire in a pub with laughter on my lips and a hot meal on my plate.
Instead of being afraid of the city and of the world, even in its beauty, I want to embrace it and fly into it full force and experience it anew. I miss my Belgium. And, hey, maybe it misses me.
The homesickness gets harder and harder. I will go back. It won't be easy for so many reasons, but I'm feeling the pull and I know I must. I don't know when, but even if I must go alone, I will go.