The Bittersweet Season

My last big trip through New Zealand over spring break ended two weeks ago (I neglected to write about any of it…)

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Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
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Paihia Dolphin Cruise – I still can’t believe I caught this shot
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Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds

Yesterday I had my final three-way meeting for student teaching and finished my last day of placement at Hornby High. Tonight is my last night as a Waimairi Woman. We have trimmed hedges and mowed the lawn, deep cleaned and packed up, and now I’m sitting at the dinner table in an eerily calm, empty house. Rachel and Jovita are already back home, and after a tramp with some friends this weekend, I’ll be joining Jovita and her family, who have graciously invited me to live with them for my last two months in New Zealand.

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Celebrating Jovita’s 20th Birthday

That’s right – two months. Rather than looking forward to all I have to explore in this country, I am slotting in my last few weekend trips and tackling final assignments. Instead of making heaps of new friends, I’m focusing on maintaining and strengthening the ones I already have. While friends in the States are posting pictures of colorful leaves and pumpkin patches, I basked in the glory of a perfect spring day today – stuffing the down coat and corduroys for a blouse and shorts, doing homework out in the sun, going on an evening stroll (at 7:45 pm!) and stopping to smell the abundant blossoms here in the Garden City. It feels like the end of April in college; impending exams are still hovering, but you sense the fullness of life all around you, you can feel the future freedom; it’s just out of reach, but you’re so close. 

Except for me, my emotions are so conflicted this time around. The last couple of months felt like I was holding my breath through a very long tunnel, just waiting for winter to end. I did try (and succeeded, I think) to make the most of it. I made it to the ski slopes three times and at least broke even on my season pass; for a crap season, it’s reasonable. Plus, I doubled my ski experience and ability. I went on an incredible mountaineering trip with the Tramping Club in the Southern Alps, where we built and slept in snow caves and tried to self arrest. Back on Waimairi Rd, I dove into planning for student teaching and read books and watched How I Met Your Mother, all curled up under the space heater. I genuinely prayed to maintain high spirits through the cold. There were good people and good times, but it was honestly a pretty tough season. Probably another reason I’ve been kind of slack on the blog.

I would come home from placement or uni classes, and Jovita would ask how my day was. “Oh, just…dumb really. All of this feels pretty pointless and unproductive.” I still want to teach, but I didn’t learn or grow as much on this placement, and I started to have doubts about how this degree would even transfer back to the States. After lots of different trips with random clubs, I hit a saturation point of meeting new people and trying new things. My inner being pleaded for some familiarity. I wanted to retreat to the comfort and support of…what? Even with the groundwork of some community laid, nothing felt comfortable or supportive enough to fall back on.

For one of the first times, I really felt the distance of being on the other side of the world, and I yearned for home. I still do. I’m not homesick in the sense that life here is unbearable. Just in the sense that eventually, I know it’s not where I belong or where I’ll be. My head and heart are packing up and journeying elsewhere, much the same way as I packed my belongings the last few days.

Now that I made it through the winter and am breathing that metaphorical sigh of relief, I am simultaneously caught off guard that I’m in the homestretch. Less than two months?! That’s nothing! Especially, as the due dates in my diary  remind me, for the work that still must be completed. I am entering a very bittersweet limbo season. As a planner who values security too much, it’s a place I’m never too keen on being in. While everyone else secures their first teaching job, I will focus on earning the degree and soaking up the last few adventures still to be had. My job will come, but I hope it will be back in South Carolina in six months’ time. God is faithful, and I continue to trust that his purposes in where I am and what I do are far greater than my understandings.

So for now, I acknowledge the bittersweetness of the near-end: grieving the close of this amazing, challenging year; anticipating the excitement of returning to my roots; and through it all, trying to stay present-minded and maximize the time  that is left.

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