A year ago I was getting ready to graduate and had just started planning for India. I was ready to get the hell out of what I thought was a town much too small for me. I wasn’t afraid of India at all. I was ready.

But things went a little bit unplanned. India was hard for me. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t expect to be this kind of hard.

It wasn’t just homesickness. It was restlessness. And it wasn’t simple restlessness either. Yes, it was hard for me to in one place for so long when I wanted to be exploring more, but this time, I was in one place where everyday I was consistently facing a world that I’ve always underestimated. I knew India was a ‘third world country’.I’ve read about it and talked about it and criticized it but until I landed in India, I didn’t really know it.

I didn’t know what it felt like to be a rich white woman in a poverty stricken country. It’s uncomfortable to recognize all of the privilege you have. It’s uncomfortable to have your ‘I’m going to save the world’ mentality challenged. It’s uncomfortable to feel like a silly little white girl who is in way over her head.

It’s uncomfortable to sit in a rickshaw everyday with your headphones in, staring straight ahead, ignoring the little girl asking for money and food because you were told not to acknowledge “them”.

I did it all wrong in India.

I saw a handicapped and ill man begging on the sidewalk across from a McDonalds and then later that night I went drinking with my friends. I saw a shirtless and fatally skinny man scuffling from person to person begging, and continued on my way to Forever21.

I had imagined myself living with a big family in a low income neighborhood, but instead I lived in a spacious flat in the nice part of the city with marble floors, my own bathroom and three home cooked meals a day.

I was so conflicted and angry with myself and my situation, but I continued my patterns.

I didn’t feel like myself. I felt fake in so many ways. My stress radiated and I had trouble making connections with people because well I just wasn’t.. nice.

My hair started falling out. In clumps.

I’d shower and finish with a sizable chunk of hair in my hands. I didn’t know what it was from. Stress? My diet?

“But why are you so stressed?”

I’ve realized it wasn’t all personal stress. It wasn’t me worrying about college or my weight or my job. It was global stress, collective stress, it was me being distressed over the state of the world in general. It was me feeling guilty and overwhelmed and disappointed in myself.

I grew so much in the 6 months India and I lived together. I faced myself in ways that I never imagined. I questioned so much and I wrote so much and I dreamed so much and I cried so much and I smiled so much and I lived so much.

India was hard for me. I loved India in all of it’s wonder but the depth that I truly got to know India was just… something that I’ve never experienced before.

Many loves come in and out of our lives, but most never really know us. We may put on a mask with them or we may not even miss them when they leave because they never truly held a part of our soul. But India was a love that came crashing into my life with such force and passion that all of my masks were crushed by truth.

How do you ever say goodbye to a love like that? In your arms my soul found chaos, passion, inspiration, pain, and even some some sort of peace. Just know that I will never forget you, India, my love.

See you soon, little bird

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