Splitting a soul is not easy, as Harry Potter and countless other works of literature portrays. It is particularly difficult when it was not a conscious choice. When all of my exciting traveling had come to an end and the hectic preparation for exams manifested, time had sprinted ahead and I was left staring down the barrel of a gun. I am aware that I have yet to write about the second half of my spring break and all of the meaningful events in between. Most of those memories are shared and thus kept alive without the written word, although I hope to delve into them soon.
The first signification of this ominous gun is a simple ballpoint pen and my overwhelmed mind, loaded with knowledge and connections that must be expressed on paper in just a few short hours. The exam system in the U.K., differing greatly from the U.S., is much more stressful and fear-inducing, as one’s entire grade, sometimes for a year-long course, depends on improvisation and resisting the urge to have a panic attack and storm out of the exam hall. Fortunately, the bullet sailed, although I know not yet how closely it hit the target of success. The best advice I can give is to start revising for exams early, switching between courses, small amounts at a time. Being a study-abroad student, I naturally traveled rather extensively leading up to exams and this may have resulted in unnecessary stress. If you have the time, travel after your exams and you will likely feel much more free and present to each moment. If this is not realistic, as in my situation, I would still urge anyone to travel instead of spending weeks by a desk preparing. Making the most of fleeting time is crucial and while packing a lot of activity in is stressful, you will likely be happy that you took those risks.
The second feeling of dread is even more extreme. With just two weeks left in Edinburgh after my exams were completed, I realized that this was not nearly enough time to say goodbye to the city, and certainly not the right time. It is a heartache to leave a city that you have fallen in love with, but I didn’t merely fall in love with the city, but with so many of its inhabitants and was more connected to certain friends than anyone back in the States. I certainly didn’t feel like a study-abroad student anymore and after being there for nine months, I had formed a life for myself. The thought of leaving was tragic, and in a way, felt like death. As melodramatic as it sounds, leaving Edinburgh and the community of friends I had made there is the only true loss I have ever experienced. I cherished my life there and as excited as I was to see friends and family in the States, I had fallen in love with the person I had become and was deeply afraid that I would lose that personal progress upon reentry into American culture.
While traveling post-exams may be the right move for some, I knew I needed to be in Edinburgh and say a proper goodbye, or ‘au revoir’ rather, to the places and people I loved. Budapest and Dublin can wait (hopefully not too long!). Thanks to the kindness of many friends, the beauty and excitement Edinburgh constantly has to offer and the sunshine deciding to make regular appearances, my last two weeks was likely the best time I spent in the city I will continue to call a home. Some of my favorite moments were: walking in a daze through Dean Village and the Water of Leith; hours spent in the meadows, tossing a frisbee or climbing cherry trees; running around the Crags and exercising more than my muscles while looking over the city; climbing Arthur’s Seat one final time to feel the ripening sun during the most emotional, wee hours of the morning; visiting Berwick-Upon-Tweed and experiencing serene solitude at the perfect beach; watching the wonderful Edinburgh College of Art fashion show, humbled by the exquisite art and vessels that modeled it; experiencing the morbid, ‘Wasteland’-like chiming clock in the National Museum of Scotland; listening to Lana Del Rey on repeat for hours, embracing the grieving period before the release; and enjoying a beautiful variety of food and flavour among close friends on my last special day.
Saying goodbye to friends who have become like family and a city that has become home was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Without a known future date of reunion, it is a cruel separation. The empty feeling of their lack of presence is a slow, gradual realization rather than a fleeting feeling of sadness of the moment. One feels like they need to make some grand gesture as a testament to that bond, whether it is making the extra effort to chase their flatmate down the road for one last embrace, give a special gift, or write a dedication to the adored. As thoughtful as gestures like these are, a simple ‘see you later’ with a knowing smile seems the most appropriate and the understanding it conveys is most meaningful. The part that made it particularly difficult is that I was not only leaving a place that I was greatly influenced by daily, but I had also become a contributing friend, a part of the city and university and my impact on it would be uprooted as well. The beautiful product of this heartbreak is a horcrux of the soul, a piece of my heart, maybe the majority, left for safe keeping in Edinburgh. Leaving a mark on the city in deeply buried breadcrumbs and cherished golden threads, I will surely find my way back, and forward.
So. How to make a horcrux?
Step One: Study Abroad. Edinburgh will not disappoint if that is your choice. And the entire academic year is a completely worthwhile experience.
Step Two: Take risks, be outgoing, travel, stay at home, be interested in your courses, grow passionate, allow others to know you, let them help you bloom, fall in love, and embrace your darlings.
Step Three: Inhale and… Release.