I’ve been home for two months now and I still sometimes question if I’m driving on the correct side of the road.
The transition has been brutal, traffic rules aside.
I wake up and need to remind myself what country I’m in, what month it is, what year. Someone asks me about Hanoi or Koh Phi Phi and I need to consciously think about when I was there, when it occurred, how long ago that was. I think about calling my sister and start calculating what time it is for her, before realizing that we’re in the same time zone. I go for a hike and with the outside world secluded by the woods, I have to remind myself that I’m not in Tasmania or Cambodia or Indonesia. I start to think about seasonal allergies before realizing that my body must not even know what season it’s in, having gone in and out of hemispheres for so long.
There are also smaller things, like turning on the wipers instead of my blinker, and pausing before I say “tomato,” considering my audience. Though, they’re not really that small at all.
Sometimes it feels like the biggest brain fuck in the world — literally unsure of where one exists.
I was in a CVS pharmacy earlier this week, the New England chain that I forgot existed until I drove past one outside of Los Angeles when I first landed. Suddenly I was there, waiting in line for my prescription, answering a whole bunch of questions about what my address is now and what insurance I have, trying to think straight.
What is my address, now? Where am I?
Stevie Nicks was on the radio and Selena Gomez was on the cover of the tabloid at the register and I was wearing all my old clothes that had been in storage while I was away and suddenly I felt like I had been transplanted there. I looked down at my hands, just as I had done when I arrived in Australia, to remind myself of my body, here where I was, always the same, no matter the continent. Presence, awareness, consciousness. Breathe.
I certainly didn’t plan for this homecoming, and maybe it was impossible to. A certain amount of blindness always comes when facing difficult decisions, and there was definitely some blindness as I started preparing for my epic trek back to the other side of the world — first through Java, then Bali, then Singapore, then Los Angeles, then New York.
It was long and somewhat drawn out, and there came a point while I was in the middle of my month in Bali when I just wanted to be home already.
Now, I can’t quite believe I ever thought that. (Though I get it — migraines and stomach sickness in a hostel will do that to you.)
Still though, this arrival in the United States has been incredibly jarring, and not just because Trump is president here now.
How do I sum up a year and a half of moving throughout the world? How do I remember all the little details? How do I make sense of being there, and now being here? How do I tell you all that happened? How do I tell you of the hundreds of kind souls that I met on the way? How do I show you how changed I am? How do I bring those parts of me, those parts that climbed volcanoes and got new jobs and road tripped alone, how do I bring those parts here? How do I make space for them, while navigating everything that is here?*
I’m still wondering where I belong. I’m still weighing what I consider to be most valuable in home. I’m still deciding where I’d like to go next. I’m still doing a lot of things that I thought I’d be done doing by now, two months in.
But I’m also working on taking care of myself and doing lots of writing and spending time in the woods and really enjoying my time with friends.
It’s an interim. An interval. Not permanent. Temporary. (Repeat, repeat, repeat.)
I’ve got one foot here, and one foot in that past world that feels ages ago. Trying to enjoy both. Being gentle with myself when someone asks me about my “trip” (was it a trip?) and my mind goes blank, my body paralyzed, a fogginess washing over me that I can’t quite put my finger on yet. Perhaps it’s all still percolating.
This is my messy attempt to make sense of it. The great disorientation of returning home from the other side of the world. (More soon.)
*I’m thinking the only logical answer here may be a book. Hmmm.