My time in London and Europe is coming to an end. I came to London with no expectations. I am proud of the unexpected things I learned outside of the classroom. The following words are the lessons that the cities of Europe have handed me and I will hold on to in my young heart.
Europe challenged my understanding of human compassion. I was hung up by Europe’s harsh past. I realized that I was slowly cementing my sapling Quaker belief of the light of God in everyone. European history and society has helped me understand myself better. I am far more certain of my conviction to peace. I have been heading this way for the last three years, but it was my experiences here that helped me realize the spiritual direction I was headed in.
The moments that had the most effect on me were the moments when I caught up with my friends who had moved to Europe. They each gave me a window into their lives. I benefited from seeing how their lives changed and how they progressed. They each inspired me uniquely.
In London I had a former high school teacher who met with me and took me about to see some of London’s fine restaurants. He inspired me to pursue my interest in the European Union. He, as he did in high school, supported my education. He explained many of England’s fascinating social/political contentious issues. His optimism had an affect on me. When I was feeling low about the breakdown of my relationship with my former girlfriend he cheered me up by helping me realize that I was young and I had had a great experience and that life goes on. I remember meeting him when I was in high school. He was still the same inspirational man.
He was also a Quaker and he invited me back to Quaker service. I only attended once, but to my surprise the service gave me internal peace. I had not attended a Quaker service in over a year. It was from the coincidence that he invited me to Quaker service that I was able to recognize the peace of mind that Quaker service gave me. Before I went to English Quaker meeting I had been forced to attend service by my middle school and high school. Back then I was being forced and I didn’t think I was actually enjoying it. After attending that one service with my former teacher I was inspired to attend again with my friends. I found a part of my spirituality had actually been formed by my Quaker education.
When I visited Spain, I stayed with my good friend from childhood. I used to see him scampering around my hometown and we used to muck around the streets making mischief. Now to my surprise and pride he had grown into a dashing young man. At nineteen he moved into an apartment in central Madrid. He was building a new life for himself. He was working on building his dreams into a reality. He was making a new group of friends who he could find comfort in, just like we were when we were kids. His bravery inspired me. He was now living his life to the best of his ability and taking what life had to offer him. He had been a goofy kid during our childhood, but in my eyes now he is a passionate young man making his own way in the world.
I don’t think that I will be following him, paving my own path, for a couple of years. He is now so far ahead of me; I look at him from behind and encourage him with pride. I’m a lucky man cause my friends are people who impress and challenge me.
When I went to Paris I sat down for drinks with a young Frenchman who had similar aspirations as me, but was making his aspirations a reality. He like me had studied Japanese and it had had a profound affect on him. Now as a university graduate student, He had also become smitten with Southeast Asia and could speak Thai fluently. I too had been in a love affair with Southeast Asia’s most beautiful girl and had aspirations of understanding Indochina. I asked him about his future and he told me that he knew he would be where he wanted to be in the future. I was delighted to learn that someone, who on the outside was so different from me, was running through this life toward to similar goals as myself. I know that the path for me is one I have to pave for myself, but I understand that people all over the world are paving their lives on their own.
In Southern England I went to visit a friend who had studied in Japan with me. He was a rolling stone, wherever he laid his hat was his home. He had lived in Taiwan, America, Japan, Germany and now England. When I knew him in Japan he was a young student who was studying Japanese intensely. He had stayed in Japan after I went back and continued to live there for the rest of the year. He had almost convinced me to stay in Japan, but I went back to America and my life became what it was. He was now studying in England aspiring to go to “Oxbridge” after completing college. He told me that having lived in so many places he couldn’t see the lines of cultural differences he just saw a variety of human behavior. I thought that his message was something that if one day the whole world shared humanity would benefit.
In the Czech Republic I spent one day with a girl who had been in my high school. Seeing her again was a pleasant encounter. She had transformed into a bright young woman with solid ambitions. She had emerged from a life moving across the world with determined scholarly goals. Her commitment to achieving all that this life could offer made me happy for her, and made me want to have strong ambitions for myself. She made me want to raise the bar higher for myself. After we parted I sat in a small vineyard on a hill over looking Prague with a cup of hot wine and with my focus fading off into the distance I thought about the people who I had met again in Europe.
Seeing them pushing themselves and supporting me gave me a grin of gratitude that I had met them.