I fell in love with Europe when I was 19.
I took my first trans-Atlantic flight into Heathrow and spent a month with 20 other students studying World War II history through the lens of the group of soldiers known as the Band of Brothers.
Together we explored London on a cold January night, jetlagged and wide eyed; cried on the beaches of Normandy; held odd looking Euro coins trying to buy breakfast in Rouen; danced on tables at a bar (sober, amazingly) in Eindhoven; saw the horrors of Nazi concentration camps at Dachau; learned about the ultimate sacrifice in the woods outside of Bastogne, Belgium; saw the same views that Hitler saw from his Berchtesgaden fortress atop the Eagles Nest in Germany; mixed with a parade of Austrians in Salzburg for their annual Mozart festival.
I returned from that month on fire about the world. Amazed at how little I had known outside of my own Midwestern American life before then. Overflowing with excitement and curiosity about everything else there was to see in different cultures. It lit inside me a thirst to step outside of the comfortable; to approach someone different than me and really hear their story.
So a few months ago I returned to Europe – maybe partially because sometimes I still think that the best part of me was discovered here. And for the last few weeks I’ve had to be the token American answering the questions, the confusion and the hurt over the presidential election.
And it’s been hard.
Hard because I support conservative ideals and morals but not the line in the sand on so many items that the Republican party has become. Hard because I am a woman who now has a president that has brushed off sexual abuse as nothing more than joking banter. Hard because I serve a God that says we’re all His children, regardless of race or gender or disability or voting record or anything else. Hard because I’ve always loved America and believed in the greatness it possesses.
Hard because I don’t have the answers. I don’t always know what to say and I have no idea if what I’m thinking is right or correct.
But I fear in isolationism that we’re losing the best of ourselves.
I fear that in being so afraid of the world and the uniqueness that it brings that generations to come will never get to experience what I did at 19. Leaving what is known for the unknown. Discovering a new side of yourself – free, independent, growing and changing. Realizing through experiencing first hand that we actually have more similarities than we do differences. Maybe I’m naïve, but I still believe that the best is yet to come for the U.S. and for all of us.
I hope that you’ll join me in rejecting that fear.