Thursday, January 23, 2014
Ultimately, what I have learned is that it is much harder to come home than people realize. You would think that after a year of being homesick and trying to adjust to a foreign language and a culture very different from your own that it would be a relief to be home and be with family and friends -- the people you love. Instead, it feels just as much like leaving your life behind as it did the first time…in a way. In many ways you are very happy to be home, and at the same time it doesn't always feel like home anymore. It is an awkward and emotional process. Consider this:
After a year of struggling to communicate every single day and celebrating minor achievements, such as ordering your coffee in the morning, this becomes the norm. You would think that returning to a place where everyone speaks your native language would be a relief…well think again. Ironically, you go from eavesdropping on people in public just to see what words you can understand (or enjoying the ability to just block it all out) to feeling like you are eavesdropping on everyone, everywhere you go, all the time. You find that while you have no desire whatsoever to hear what they are saying, there it is...there's no escaping it.
We all develop our own daily routine. We have little daily, weekly, or monthly traditions that (for some reason) make us happy. We have those favorite spots like the coffee stand that we pass on the way to work or the place you go when you're desperate for groceries and all the other stores are closed. It feels like it took you a whole year to establish this routine and suddenly it is disrupted. You may be moving back to your hometown, but suddenly you have no idea what to do or where to go. The coffee at your favorite coffee shop doesn't taste the same, and you can't help but thinking that the coffee you drank while you were living on the other side of the world tastes better than this crap. Not only that, but you desperately want things to be normal again and they are far from it.
You need to constantly remind yourself that you have been gone for a year (even though you're trying not to think about it). After a year it would be logical to assume that your relationship with family and friends would be a little different, even with Godsends like Skype and email. However, expecting it to happen and experiencing it are two very different things. Not only have you been separated by thousands of miles, but you haven't had any shared experiences for at least a year. You feel self-conscious every time you start a sentence with "In *insert country here*…" or "When I went to *insert location in country here*…" because you don't want to be the person that only talks about their experiences abroad. Unfortunately, those are the only recent experiences you have to pull from so you just pray that you don't sound like a pretentious ass.
And to top it all off, you may actually have difficulty relating to people. Sometimes we experience things that the people we love won't ever fully understand, but the ones who don't pretend that they do and are willing to listen are worth more than you ever could have imagined. Things change, and sometimes it can be hard to take changes in stride. Things get disconnected and you have to figure out where things go and how to get things started up again (I'm sure the technologically challenged among us can relate). It's a long process and sometimes a slow process and it definitely has its ups and downs, but eventually you figure things out.