The intense nausea of the last couple weeks reached its peak. My entire body felt like a mass of pudding, shaking with every step toward the TSA checkpoint at LAX on July 10, 2017. I hugged my little travel pillow tightly under my chin while walking. The mix of numbness and stomach ache made me disregard the ocean of tears that soaked my passport and airplane ticket I held under my chin with the travel pillow.
My heart never felt this heavy before
I was about to catch a plane to Germany on 5:30 p.m. Boarding would begin in 15 minutes and I was late given the length of the TSA line still ahead of me. Usually, I would panic and ask people if I can skip ahead to catch my flight but my throat was too dry to speak and my mind to empty to process anything. I didn’t even think about the $460 the airline made me pay for my excess luggage (now, 12 hours later, I am really upset about this…)
I’ve lived in California for six years and enjoyed every moment of it. I pieced together a new home. The one that gives you this warm fuzzy feeling when thinking about it. With the uncertainty of ever returning, I said goodbye to the greatest elements of my life – the most precious friends imaginable, families that welcomed me into their homes, mentors that went above and beyond to support me in any way and a new love with its untouched potential. Every part of my heart was broken. And I did it to myself.
Doubts and regrets became my close companions ever since the deadline to extend my visa had passed. I made the decision to leave. Did I ruin a promising future in the place I loved? It would have been easy to extend my stay in the US after graduating an American university. People who know about American immigration policies know what I mean. I dismissed a rare chance and now faced incredible regret, an emotion I’ve been dreading.
Why did I leave?
My decision to leave didn’t come unfounded. Living in the United States had been financially and personally challenging for me in multiple ways. After the country’s political turn, I actually felt good about moving on. Additionally, California State University Northridge’s journalism department awarded me with the Tom Reilly Student Journalism Enterprise Fund 2017 to create a reporting documentary about the refugee crisis in Europe.
Even though all stars seemed to align for me, I felt horrified by the mix of emotions that should stay away from each other for the sake of sanity. That moment at the airport, a wave of self-doubt and regret strangled the initial determination and excitement I felt for the move.
Moving forward and embracing uncertainty
I am lucky to know some of the kindest people on Earth. My closest friends in Germany have remained close over all these years. Additionally, I’ve met wonderful people from around the globe. Please know that I am holding every one of you very close to my heart and my mind. You are the reason I’m not losing my mind in this world. Uncertainty is scary – but I am excited to share my journey with all of you and know you won’t let me mope around for too long.