July 13, 2023

I’m pulling the topic of today’s post from a book I got a while back called 301 Writing Ideas. I’ll just pull the first prompt.

What is a day that you wish you could relive?

If I had to do it over, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Finland as an exchange student after high school. I think I would’ve simply gone straight to university. I can’t be sure of the date I applied to go but I flew out on August 18, 2001. I would relive the day I applied to go.

I remember seeing the lime green, nearly neon yellow, or maybe they were a shade of blue, eight-and-a-half-by-eleven posters on the walls of the hallways in my high school. I think there were only a couple of them because I recall having to look for one. I must’ve walked by one on my way to class and then had to go back to grab the information I needed.

My mom took me to her office so that we could fill out the application form on a typewriter, instead of writing it in by hand. Part of the application required to that photos describing myself be submitted. I recall only the one of my stereo with CDs strewn out in front of it. During the interview, I was asked to explain why I chose to include that one.

Music was important to me then. I still have that amplifier for that Pioneer mini system in my room at my parents’ place. I absolutely loved it. At the store, Visions, the salesman played “Mysterious Times” by Sash! on it. Even years later, every so often, I’d play the song on the stereo and turn up the volume. The stereo doesn’t work anymore and I don’t know where the speakers are but music is still an important part of my life.

While I was in Finland, I remember travelling by bus to Tampere from Huittinen, where I was visiting a friend, to get Micheal Jackson’s Invincible album on the day it was released. I bought a few other CDs while I was there. For one of my photography projects in art class, I did a slide show presentation set to Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses”. The pictures were of my teddy bear with roses in various locations. I hope those slides are in a box in my parents’ basement. The teacher asked me if I was homesick after my presentation.

In Finland, I lost my sense of self. I wasn’t very self-assured or confident before going but whatever I knew about who I was became upended while I was there. Perhaps the person I slowly became was finally free to rise to the surface and experience the world. I was ill-prepared for my unsupervised foray into the world. Nobody could’ve known that before it happened.

I didn’t stay for the full year, coming back only eight months in. Even that was too long. The amount of anger and distrust I created between me and my family took at least ten years to dissipate enough for regeneration to occur. It took at least another five years before our relationship showed signs of sustainable growth.

Still today, my relationship with myself is confused, unresolved, and frustrated because I can’t resolve for myself how the person who left on that plane disappeared from the world. I’m troubled by missed opportunities, arrogant dismissals, and emotional immaturity. It’s impossible for me to turn back and grab that eighteen-year-old kid, clean shaven, wearing a freshly pressed shirt, and sitting at the top of his class and bring him into the world I’m navigating today. My current search for success is distracted by what I see in the rearview mirror looking through a foggy rear window with high-beams shining directly at it.

I wasn’t supposed to drive while I was in Finland but I did.


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