So, I’m coming home really soon, and I’m starting to think about what that will be like after the initial excitement and joy and comfort.
I’ve seen a lot of people writing about what it feels like to return home, dealing with reverse culture shock, homesickness for your second home in your host country, feeling alienated and not listened to and basically just depressed. And it made me think. I’ve been so excited to return home, thinking about all the things and people I miss, all the things I will do and eat and see. All the things that will be so much easier, relaxed, comfortable, and convenient. But, at the same time, I know there will come the time that everything sort of comes crashing down. When everything settles. I’m gonna freak out, and I know it. I’m gonna feel trapped and restless and definitely anxious. I’m going to question who I am and where I belong and why everything feels so weird and why everyone feels a little distant and what the hell am I doing, anyway.
People talk about missing the country they were in, everything that made up the place — the people, the food, the architecture, the culture, the language. And yes, all those things are important, but it’s also not that simple. Because it’s not just about the place. It’s about you. It’s about who you are and who you can be in that place. There is a loss and a grieving for that when you go back home. There’s the you that you were before and there’s the you that existed halfway across the world, and you suddenly don’t know who to be where or how to make these different versions of yourself come together as one, now that the dusty unknowns of your life have settled.
And yes, maybe I won’t have access to certain things or things won’t look the same or sound the same or taste the same back home, but I think it’s not gonna be all about the surroundings, but rather the inner. How I can be my old self and my new self and all the selves in between, wherever I am, in whatever ways I can.
I have come to the realization that I may never feel like I really belong anywhere, that I don’t have a home. And that’s okay. I think what I want to work on is figuring how to make wherever I am and whoever I’m with feel like home, however temporary or not. I didn’t do such a good job of that in Spain; I made my life and my routine, but I never shook the feeling of being utterly alone. Isolation is a bitch, and upon the idea of finally “going back home,” I realized that maybe that’s not what I’m really doing. I’m going back to the familiar, that’s for sure, but home? I don’t know what home is for me anymore. I graduated. I moved away. I’m not really sure what I have left to come back to. I don’t think home is any particular place. Home needs to be myself, but not in a half-assed, this sounds cool and romanticized kind of way. In a real way.
Because everything has changed, with me over here and with everything else back home. And a lot of it is social. To be honest, there isn’t one friendship I haven’t questioned at least once since I’ve been abroad. There really is nothing like being in another country for an extended period of time to test your relationships with people, especially if when you return, you no longer have your community or a place or reason to keep you all together. Every single one of my relationships have changed, some for the worse and some for the better. Some, even best friendships, have been completely abandoned, dissolved. Now, some of this is natural upon graduating from college, but some of this also has to do with being here. And I wonder what it’s going to be like when I return. Will things change again? Will certain relationships get better? Will I care? Will I even want them to? Will I look at things the way I did, now that I know what happens when things get a little hard or inconvenient? I don’t know. Probably not.
I know I will hear countless “I thought about you all the time!” and “I missed you so much!” and “I love you!”’s, and I know most of the time my immediate reaction will be — “did you really, though?” or “no, you didn’t.” I don’t want to sound jaded, but, maybe I am. So much about belonging, so much about home is the people. I’m just trying to cut through the bullshit and see what’s real.
But I do wonder.
Who will listen. I mean really, really listen.
Who will be there to hear something past the short, watered down version of what most people want to hear.
Who won’t roll their eyes every time I start a sentence with, “when I was in Spain..” or “well, in (insert country here), blah blah blah.”
Who will understand that there are multiple, varied ways you can live your life.
Who will see that everything is different.
Who will look outside the blinders we have on.
Who will get what actually matters.
Who will try.
Who will be real.
I don’t want to sound holier than thou or anything like that, I’m just trying to be realistic about what is to come. But it doesn’t end there. This time next year, I’m going to be a new me, again. And isn’t that just what life is? The evolution of the self, documented in years. Constant changing. Becoming older is just becoming new, again and again.
One of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Warsan Shire, ends with the lines,
“I am a lover without a lover.
I am lovely and lonely and
I belong deeply to myself.”
I belong deeply to myself, with myself. It’s not a place. It is a state of being that I’m trying to learn how to bring with me, everywhere. But it’s hard. I love and love and love, and I am lonely more often than not. But I belong. I belong to me. I belong with me.