The Return: Photos, a Gif, and the Video Montage

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This was the longest I’ve ever kept a secret, and I think it will stay that way for a long time.

I bought my ticket home in November – without the guarantee that my visa would be approved in time to make it home. With some help from my favorite legal council, a lot of paperwork, and one frantic last minute cab-ride to immigration, I received special permission to leave the country for a trip home. Qantas released a new commercial the week before I left and I felt like it was written just for me. I watched it at least 50 times leading up to my departure. I dare you to finish the whole thing with dry eyes:

I left Sydney Dec 24 at 1:00pm and landed in LA just in time to see the Sun rise over the Pacific on the same day. From there it was a short layover then down to Dallas. The last leg of my journey took me to KC, where my family picked me up at the airport. With the exception of a few friends from out of state, and some secret agents in Kansas City and Lawrence, no one knew I was arriving besides my immediate family (Drew didn’t even know). Some did a better job at keeping the secret than others, but as a whole – I arrived under a cloak of pseudo-secrecy on Christmas Eve.

I got to spend a whole week surprising friends all over town. I opened the door for Drew on Christmas day, to which he responded with the man-shout of “OH! HEY!” Will’s Mom helped me ambush him at Chipotle, and Will then helped me show up at a high-school get together of all my favorite Science nerds. Brian helped me tackle Leah in the Middle of Mi Ranchito, and Lucy’s sister helped me stalk her even through she was visiting from Paris. Huggy arranged a get-together of 10 Lambda Chi Boys to surprise on the Plaza.

I had to wait until December 30 to set foot in Allen Fieldhouse, which felt like fighting some kind of gravitational pull. The added pressure of surprising some of my best friends, making it before the game started, and staying OFF any kind of television broadcast (so as not to ruin any surprises the next day) nearly put me over the edge. Of course parking was an utter disaster, and I sprinted through the tunnel before the game started, but not before the band started its pre-game set. Drew was saving a seat for me along with Jason & Gelareh who had no idea I was coming. Josh had been texting me updates about Chris and Cody from the basketball band stands, but I didn’t make it in time for him to film a reaction. Luckily Drew was my backup photographer, and got some pretty great shot. For so many reasons I couldn’t even begin to list, that reunion on December 30th was my favorite.

The Phog welcomed me home in true AFH style; Baby Jay stepped on my phone, newspaper confetti filled my pockets and purse, I ended up shedding all extra layers of clothing, and third row never felt so good.

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New Year’s Eve was my most technically planned surprise. I had contacted Sandbar months in advance looking to reserve the back room for NYE. They don’t typically reserve anything, so I wasn’t too optimistic. However, being the amazing people/bar/perfect humans that they are… they granted me the back room and generously reminded me that I could bring any food that I wanted with me (Pizza Shuttle, duh). I truly have no words for the generosity of their staff that played such a huge part in starting off 2015 with every single one of my favorite people. So here’s to those people who trekked through the cold, who gave up part of their holiday, time with their families, put off their moving date, and made the drive to see me. Here’s to Kelly, Danyelle, Lora, Ashley, Lucy, Alissa, Hilary, Kay, Will, Chris, Jeff, Newman, Antonio, & Andy – My NYE 2014-2015 Crew.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of coffee dates, BBQ tours, and last savored nights out in my beloved Larryville. I even got one more night in Allen Fieldhouse thanks to Drew’s Christmas Present! There were so many special people I wanted to see, and although working from home made things a bit more complicated, I could not be more grateful that everyone was free to squeeze me in.Also massive shout-out to Timmy and the current BHouse crew for hosting something at my favorite little home in LFK.

A lot of people asked me what seemed different, what had changed since I left. And the truth is that a few things had changed. My friends were growing up while I was gone, moving on to bigger apartments and real relationships, meals that don’t necessarily come out of a box or a delivery driver’s car, and (heaven forbid) avoiding dollar night on Wednesdays. Instead of going back to high school to visit teachers, they’re the ones making the lesson plans. But what I noticed most were the things that stayed exactly the same. Same barren trees signaling December is just the beginning of the winter blast (I forgot what it felt like to have snot freeze in a matter of seconds). The same weathermen and radio voices telling me where the slow parts of I-435 are, the same real housewives of Johnson County at every turn, even the same bartenders at my favorite watering holes. None of this is bad, I simply wasn’t expecting it.

There’s so much that I miss about Kansas every day. My closet looks empty without at least a few borrowed dresses from my sisters (and a few missing on loan). My stomach craves BBQ constantly, despite the fact that I brought home enough sauce to start a restaurant of my own. Watching Sports by yourself at 4am isn’t quite the same, and on some occasions my heart aches to squeeze the ones I love (see overdue hugs below).

…Which is why it was perfect timing to come home for a visit, but also exactly why I was ready to be back in Sydney after a few weeks. It is truly these polarizing places I love so much that keep me grounded.

So until next time beautiful Kansas! I’ll be thinking of you and spreading our love of large chunks of meat, college basketball, and well mannered drivers down under. I’ll be thinking of you on snow days while I lounge at the beach, and most of all I’ll be messaging each of you ALL THE FREAKING TIME. So while my love affair with Sydney isn’t over, I’ll always be going steady with you, KC.

Don’t forget: my couch is always open to visitors. After all, it’s your turn to buy tickets now 🙂

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