They call it re-entry. Reverse culture shock.
I’d say it’s more like “reverse life change shock.” The combined effect of packing up a life into four shockingly small suitcases, moving the fragments of my life from one house to the next for over a month, then landing, breathlessly, in familiar surroundings that are yet unfamiliar.
I was warned of the mysterious effects of this arduous journey. In my sleepy hometown, small things have changed–a new flower garden there, births and deaths, and a new paint job.
But, mostly, I have changed.
The journey changed me. In many ways, I left behind the cheerfully naive young woman I used to be and returned a braver, wiser version of myself.
I sometimes feel like I no longer fit in a quieter, more pastoral life. Yet I also have a new appreciation for simple pleasures and peaceful old age, having seen so many go without and have the privilege of old age taken from them early.
After the frenetic pace of the last three years, a new country and usually language each month, trotting all over the globe to return to a house that still did not feel quite like home, I appreciate a simple life.
Joyful homecomings. Christmas around the tree with my family. A bright blue sky and Kansas sunset dying orange. Staying in one country for the longest amount of time (one month) since I moved to England.
There is a strange sense of losing yourself, though. Losing that fearless person who chatted with Buddhist monks in Myanmar and rode tuktuks through insane traffic in Bangkok and came face-to-face with wild lions in Africa.
I am that person, too.
I’ve been here before, feeling like I’ve lost myself and knowing that someday, if I keep stepping forward, I’ll stumble over myself again, though I won’t look quite the same as I once did.
In a way, I will always be both people. Many different people in many different places. I will never forget that person I used to be, the adventures she had, the blood and sweat and tears and triumphs.
But, it does not do to dwell on memories and forget to live.
I will never forget the dusty red dirt of Africa, the smiling faces of children on almost every continent, the sounds and smells and tastes of Rome in the heat of summer. Yet I cannot live as a person torn in two, walking forward and looking back at the same time.
It’s just asking to fall on my face.
Wisdom I learned the hard way when struggling with homesickness and Myanmar heat and strange food I can’t begin to pronounce serves me well now.
Wherever you are, be all there. Live present with the I AM in the right now. Live your story, and live fully in this moment, because the person you are right now, in this time and place, you will never be again. There is no going back.
Forward? Only way to go.