Saying goodbye has never been something I am good at. We just concluded our X phase and have landed in Santa Fe to wrap up our course. Reflecting on something as life changing as this trip is extremely difficult. The friendships that we have formed and experiences we have had cannot be duplicated in any context. The hardest part about saying goodbye to our trip is that there is always a part of me that knows even with staying in touch and meeting up occasionally things will never feel the same as they did in the southwest. This beautiful place has been the only appropriate background for the amount of personal growth I have experienced throughout this trip.
There is something about the way that the southwest produces beauty and so much vibrant life from what most people would consider a desolate landscape. Yesterday we conducted our X phase debrief in a park near Canyon Road in Santa Fe and it began to rain heavily. At that moment I realized that it had only heavily rained twice including yesterday throughout our entire trip, and yet the flowers of the ocotillo had begun to bloom and there was water for us to drink on our trek in Grand Gulch. The perseverance of the desert is astounding. This program in a sense completely embodies that perseverance.
We started in El Paso airport in March first with fourteen strangers. I still remember the awkward conversation I had with Jack and Eli upon arrival in El Paso. I sat down with my pack (crocs and a camping chair and various other items strapped precariously to the outside) and did the usual small talk of “where are you from?” “Are you excited for the program?” etc. Nate made a questionable joke about five minutes in and now I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life without these people. Without these two months I wouldn’t have experienced the joy of listening to Charlie XCX and Rina Sawayama in the van in the middle of the night with Jacob, or meeting Celie, the Thelma to my Louise, or singing along to Ariana Grande at the top of my lungs in the van with Eli. This program makes you give people a chance. We all form opinions on people based on first impressions and sometimes that is to our detriment. Here I have learned that you truly cannot count anyone out. Every single person has something wonderful and unique to offer to your life and you can learn something from everyone you meet.
Rio Grande Semester group B (or the Wildcats) will be forever a pivotal moment in my development. I truly cannot express how grateful I am to have been here and how lucky I am to have gotten to know each and every one of the students and instructors. Time will lessen our bonds and fog our memories but the courage, empathy, and resilience I learned while I was here will stick with me for the rest of my life.