WARNING: Interrupting regular travel-related or fashion-related posts with an intimate essay coming up after the jump! Read at your own peril.
In case you were hoping for shots of me in a cap and gown, clutching a diploma, or posing cheesily with my college mascot/sign, let me just say I wish I had those shots to share. For those of you who have been following anything Estherina's World (blog, Facebook, or Instagram) over the past 9 months, you know that I spent the past academic year studying abroad in London. Thus I wasn't able to experience commencement with my fellow UC Berkeley Golden Bears.
When deciding whether or not to spend my senior year abroad, missing the sentimental lasts was definitely the biggest con on my list. The last first day of school, all-nighter, lecture, exam. Last walk around campus as a student. Last anything that wasn't something to treasure until one realized it was the last something. Not to mention, all the lasts that had nothing to do with school and everything to do with living in Berkeley. The last time hiking around the verdant Berkeley Hills. The last time food coma-ing early/late in the AM after a late-night Pho delivery or venture into Oakland's Chinatown. The last time casually hopping over to San Francisco for the day.
The sacrifice of all the lasts. That was the hard part.
If you're anything like me (and I'm sure some of you must be), accepting change doesn't always come easily. Sometimes it can feel heartbreakingly impossible. Yet, if I've learned anything in 21 years of life (and one would hope I have), it's that there's nothing to gain from dwelling on what was at the expense of what can be. In other words, I could focus on how I was sacrificing all the aforementioned lasts... or I could focus on how I was trading them for firsts.
Pulse-racing, breath-stealing, life-changing firsts. My first time living in Europe. First time perching on Millenium Bridge under a starry night, white light emanating from St. Paul's. First time meeting the Queen and not her wax figure. First time canal biking in Amsterdam. First time hiking up a mountain in Scotland. First time walking the Berlin Wall. First time singing "Galway Girl" at an Irish pub that's actually in Ireland. First time entering the Sagrada Familia. First time bathing in Budapest. First time horseback riding through Tuscan vineyards. First time boating on Lake Como. First time gambling in Monaco. First time visiting Monet's garden in Giverny. First time tasting champagne in the cellar where it was made. First time paragliding in Interlaken. First time visiting Istanbul, Bath, Vienna, Nuremberg, Lucerne, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. First time.... well, let's just paraphrase, say etc., and skip to the overriding decision-justifying First: my first time having the ability to unabashedly prioritize the pursuit of all things New.
So now here I am. At the other end of the 9-month journey that was my senior year abroad. Despite missing the ceremonial rites, a proud wielder of a B.S. Business Administration degree from UC Berkeley (well not technically since the diploma has yet to arrive). A college graduate. An oldie. Currently chilling in Southeast Asia for one month of summer vacation before relocating to New York City for law school. And the moral of this epic narrative?
Obvious, isn't it? Embrace the Firsts. They're the ones that will keep you discovering, learning, growing. Embrace the Firsts. They're the ones that keep you moving forward.