Friday, May 12, 2006

Keeping it honest

Very unedited freewrite here, so forgive the pedestrian prose.

Sorry about the lag time between posts. I find I have fewer reasons to write here because so much of what I compose is actually a way to vent frustration these days. I'm not very frustrated here. Sure, I'm preoccupied by real estate prices and murky future job prospects, but coming home has never felt so good.

I know I keep writing about this, but it has been truly remarkable to rediscover myself here and to experience relief knowing that I can metamorphose back into who I am and want to be, even when I feared that parts of my spirit had been wrung out of me elsewhere.

The downside to this, if there is a downside, is that the "rooted" analogy is as true as I suspected. I'm inextricably linked to this place. Take me away from it for too long and I fade a little, like a sheet left on the line. Before everything changed in my life, I warned my loved ones that there were a few things about me that probably wouldn't be able to shift: I want to be near my family, I need to keep my career from consuming my life, and I belong in that unique space where mountains and seascapes converge. If I go against those core components of myself, I would still survive -- but I wouldn't be me anymore, or at least I wouldn't be the me that finally feels like it fits. I can't do that.

Being away isn't all bad. It's let me recognize the good aspects of this country, as well as the bad. I've met people from dozens of places around the world, and many of them have provided insight into politics, society or personal life that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. In the end, though, I can only be away so long, and there's only one true home for me. Maybe that's the Irish blood coming out, stubbornly clinging to its patch of earth for better or for worse.

It isn't perfect here. It rains too much. It's too expensive. Sometimes, I just want to smack the yuppies on their cell phones when they almost annihilate my bike because they don't have a spare hand to flick their turn signal. Yet, I've felt more content in the last two weeks than I have since we moved away, and I've reverted back to the independent, relatively laidback, bordering on actually happy (if politically rabid) wife my husband married, instead of the depressed, dependent, overly anxious alter ego that seems to come over me back in the UK. I missed me. I can't tell you how important it is to realize that this is largely what's wrong.

People keep telling me that I should be reveling in every moment I spend overseas, and I understand what they mean but beg to differ with the details. Being abroad is certainly a worthwhile experience; it expands your worldview, challenges your preconceived picture of things and helps you become a little more tolerant of others. After the honeymoon phase, however, when most people get to go back home (I'm thinking the six-month mark is what did it for me), you also realize that being abroad has its downsides -- like when you start understanding how unique your own country is, but can't return yet. Or when you see the uglier side of other people and get frustrated with their equally incorrect stereotypes of you. If you're a roving nomad, then living abroad likely is fantastic...but when you're 25, barely married, closer to your family than most, just beginning to grow comfortable with the way your life's taking shape, more place-based than you thought, and learning that you're incredibly happy with the way things already are, it can be a difficult transition. It takes a heck of an emotional and physical toll (as evidenced by the outrageously expensive, fragile-looking sliver of plastic that's supposed to stop me from grinding my teeth out of alignment -- seriously, I can't believe you're allowed to charge so much for something that weighs less than the stack of bills I paid for it). Coming back makes me realize how much I hate the time zone difference that makes it impossible to call my best friend on a whim to bitch about my day, or how much I miss being able to have a spontaneous afternoon out with my mom. I miss riding the trails in the rain with my husband, sending arcs of water up over our wheel rims and arriving at our destination with nicely mud-splattered clothing.

Maybe it was the constant moving we seemed to do when I was younger, or perhaps I can attribute all this to some Taurus moon in my horoscope, but somehow I think it's just a central part of me that's been growing since I moved into my first apartment five years ago. I'm off to California tomorrow and promise many amusing posts once I have internet access there (if I have internet access at all, as someone from the area warned me I'd be going "back in time" technologically). For now, though, I just want to be honest with myself and to keep track of my own thoughts on this ever weirder journey I'm taking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally know how you feel. I missed me terribly my first few months at Berkeley and wondered what happened to the independent, self-sufficient, emotionally stable, intellecutally excited, healthy, and happy person I was in college. How had I become emotionally dependent, unhealthy, unhappy, and driven by my survival instinct rather than intellectual passion? And that me only returned when I saw old friends and returned to old places. It took 6 months to a year to re-build a new locally-rooted sense of self, and it required conscientious effort and the acceptance that this place is not a temporary way station but a new home.

And that loneliness of exile that comes over you when you're abroad. Once it hits - as it inevitably does after the honeymoon wonder - it hits with a vengeance, doesn't it?

-berkeley girl