“Are you worried about coming home at all?” my friends and family ask.
Yes, of course I’m scared. I’m a roller coaster of emotions as my return date quickly approaches . I’m under the 60 day mark now. Most days it still doesn’t feel real. I spend a great deal of time leaning on friends and talking about what it will be like to return.
Difficult. It will be difficult.
There is this thing called readjustment; it’s essentially reverse culture shock. Most people say that it’s more difficult to return than it was to go away. I have a feeling that will hold true. Another person told me that you never really readjust because you can never get back to that person you were before you left. You just can’t, no matter how hard you try.
Life has changed. You’ve changed. People have moved on in life and you must try your hardest to continue to let go of who you thought you were so that you can continue to grow. I just stumbled upon a photo of me at the airport with friends and family the day I left America. I’m no longer that woman. That is no longer my life.
In lieu of this, I’ve talked to friends back home about how excited I am to see them after two long years. After the excitement comes anxiety. Then sadness. Then I remember how different life is over in America. I wish I could tell you how strange it is being on the other side. I wish I could tell you that it’s like I’m now a foreigner coming to a strange land, a strange culture. America.
Things I Haven’t Done in Two Years
- Worn a pair of jeans
- Eaten sushi
- Had a warm shower in my home
- Gone through the day speaking one language
- Had a paying job
- Driven a car or any motorized vehicle
- Worn a pair of shoes in a house
- Hugged my sister or my grandfather
- Spent time driving the streets of Cincinnati
- Lived closer than 4 hours to an American I know
- Worked in one speaking language
- Seen my best friend Alex and hugged her so hard, for so long
- Seen Aurora, a fluffy, old friend
- Been allowed to wear a sleeveless shirt or skirt above the knees
- Seen snow or been in temps below 40 degrees F
- Gone more than 3 days without eating rice
Things I’m Scared of Returning Home To
- A city that has changed
- Not recognizing the faces of my nephews
- Acknowledging that people have grown and moved on in the last two years, just like me. Life never stands still for you.
- Facing the declining health of my grandfather
- Being so many miles away from my Thai family, and my Paaw. My Paaw.
- Retaining my new values and finding a place for them in my American life
- Starting all over again
- People who express anger, frustration or sadness in public
- People who say things really directly and without consideration for gentleness or kindness
- Judgement and ignorance
- The fast-paced American way of life. Why so serious? Why so fast?
- That I’ve grown into a person whose values don’t quite fit with my old friends, hobbies, habits, living
- Not being challenged on a daily basis
- Leaving behind my students. My smiles. My hugs and joy.
- Living so so far away from my Peace Corps volunteer family
- Speaking only in one language
- Letting go. Moving on.
But, you know what? I’m going to be okay. Because I have a lot I’m coming home to. A lot of love, a lot of support, a lot of patience. Hear that everyone? I need love, support and patience. Let’s have a dinner party. I’ll bring the stories, you bring the food, the fun and the American spirit.