Sitting in this worn, tiny plane chair on the tenth hour of the thirteen-hour ride to Azerbaijan, I’m filling my time looking at my old pieces of writing. I found a document labeled “15-07-02 – Mi Tierra”. It’s odd, because when I saw the words mi tierra, a few different thoughts passed through my head.

First, as the language nerd that I am, I realized that in Spanish home is hogar but instead I used mi tierra which is my land. And that’s just weird how we use different words to convey the notion of (in English) home.

But other than that trivial thing that fascinates me way more than it should, I thought of how four years ago, I considered Spain to be my one and only home. Time truly does crazy things. Here I am now, my second time moving out of this country, with a sense of pride that I would have despised as a fourteen-year-old immigrant in America. Ridgewood out of all places. No matter how disgustingly white-privileged, picture perfect, seemingly polished this town was, it made me, me. It was a temporary home but, nevertheless, a home. And since about a year ago I decided to take in all the lessons I learned when visiting an old home, why not do the same when leaving a temporary home.

So here it is, an appreciation post for the US, Ridgewood and RHS. But more importantly, a shout-out to all the people, places and things (*cough* food) that stuck by my side no matter what.

  1. Contrary to popular belief, McDonald’s isn’t any better in the US. It does, however, make for a cool hangout place if you have weird friends and nowhere to go at 11pm.
  2. Chin up, refuel.
  3. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
  4. High school is stupid and (hopefully) doesn’t dictate where your life is headed.
  5. Watch sunrises, sit in empty fields, go to playgrounds, walk on trails, lie on roofs. Preferably with a friend, but sometimes alone.
  6. Keep your friends close during hard times, especially if they’re going through their own hard times with you *shudders* SATs
  7. Learn to take people off the pedestals you put them on. Know that personalities and circumstances do change and you can only give people as much as they give you.
  8. Just learn to say your name the way Americans say it. No matter how determined you are to pronounce it in your own language, they won’t be able to say it and will end up twisting it into something that has nothing to do with your name. Save yourself the trouble.
  9. Find friends who are as nerdy as you. Even if that means you end up going to the Starbucks every day after school or pulling all-nighters to study, it’ll make for some great memories.
  10. No matter how far away you are from your family, they are there in times of need. Don’t take it for granted and always remember to show your appreciation.
  11. Write – or do whatever that thing is that replaces an expensive therapist. Whether it brings home medals or just helps sleepless nights, make yourself proud. I realize now that going through that folder in my laptop with all my writing sorted by date is the most satisfying feeling in the world.
  12. If you don’t forget, at least forgive. You can’t go around hating people.
  13. No regrets (especially for things you did or said within the YOLO month before leaving a country)
  14. Let yourself change. This is coming from the girl who wrote two years ago, and I quote, “I have never and will never Instagram a picture of my Starbucks cup or take a picture of the sunset with my iPhone”… Look where I am now. But hey, if excessively long Snapstories and embarrassingly deep Instagram posts make me happy, well I’ll do me 🙂

It seems unfair to only list fifteen out of the hundreds of lessons that I learned these past four years. But for tradition’s sake, I’ll keep it at that.

So thanks, America, for your breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity, comedic politics, unjust justice, lovely neighbors, bright flags, greasy burgers, friendly coffee shops, cheap clothes, wise teachers, lively classrooms and newfound friendships.

But most importantly, thank you for teaching me the most important lesson of all: to love myself as the dream-filled multicultural ball of sass that I am.