I suppose I just have an especially large heart, as I find I consider so many different places to be home.
I’ve been “home” (this time home being the United States, specifically Portland, Oregon) for just under eight weeks now. However, it was only within these past couple of weeks that I finally started to settle back into the routine. So maybe it’s appropriate that I’ve waited this long to write about my homecoming.
I still miss Europe – and more than just occasionally. But I’m also very happy to be back. Gone for just two weeks shy of a year, it was hard to not miss my family and hometown as well. Europe, France especially, and all the friends and family I gained over the past year will always hold a very special place in my heart. It’s not a question of if I want to go back, or even whether I will or not. It’s a simple question of when. My answer is simply as soon as I can. Whether I want to move there permanently or live in the States is a little harder to answer, both have pros and cons in my opinion. It’s not a question I feel I need to have an immediate answer to, though. Not until an opportunity presents itself. So until that time I’m simply not going to answer. You’ll just have to accept that.
My last few days, no weeks, in Europe were hard. Very hard. I was a filled with a confusing mix of excited anticipation to be home and with my family again, but also of morose resignation that my time abroad was finally at an end (at least for this adventure). Much as I missed my family and wanted to return home, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye either.
Throughout University, I spent my summers working in the science classes at a nearby museum. Every week we had a new group of students, so we always started Monday off with introductions. One of our questions was “If you could have any superpower – other than all the powers or infinite wishes (the lead instructor was always careful to exclude – what would it be?” One of my go-to answers was the power of teleportation, so I to travel freely wherever I desired. I could have as much time in both France and the States (and everywhere -anywhere – else I might wish to stop over in) as I wanted. Never, have I more wished for this ability than during those last few weeks in Rotterdam.
Even as I cherished my last couple of weekends, planned the last of my journeys (including one last visit to Paris of course) and started packing my suitcases. At the same time as I was intellectually accepting the fact that I was saying my final goodbyes, I don’t think it ever really hit me that I was finally going home until I actually was home.
I’ve always been one to live in the moment. I adjust easily for if I didn’t I would not be able to move and change location and lifestyle so easily. Once I find myself somewhere, even if it was just a few weeks at overnight camp as a child, I’m able to fully embrace being there. It’s hard to properly explain: I remember where I used to be, but I live where I am. Where I was before is a fond memory and even if I miss it at times, I don’t fully feel or remember the experience of being there until I am again.
Intellectually, I knew I was going home. Emotionally, it was harder to accept. I think I was even more torn because I felt like I should be sadder than I was. But I always felt like I was still there, so what was there to be sad about? Why trouble oneself over something that was yet to come? At the most, I was simply in transition and going through the movements to complete all the tasks required to make my grand return.
Even as I said goodbye at the airport. As I took the last photos and cherished the last hugs, at times it was just going through the motions. Don’t mistake me, I was sad, very sad, but it still hadn’t hit me properly. Sitting on the plane, hours, minutes, seconds from landing. I still couldn’t believe I was coming back.
Finally, I was back in PDX. In line at customs, not even at the desk yet and the TSA officer was making his announcements, giving our instructions and directing people into the proper lines. “And welcome home,” he ends. And it hits me : I’m home. Back on American soil. Standing there, with my two suitcases and two shoulder bags, surrounded by strangers, and I finally start to tear up. I’m finally in that moment.
I was sad to realize the adventure was at last over. Although I knew I would (and do) keep in touch with my friends, and eventually see them again, the when was (and unfortunately remains) a mystery. And that was a sobering thought. And simultaneously, I was so happy to finally be home. That “welcome home”, even surrounded by other random travellers as I was and hearing it from yet another stranger – who probably says it dozens of times a day – meant so much to me. Represented so much.
It was hard adjusting to being back. Reverse culture shock is most definitely real. But I’m finally getting used to it. I’m still settling in as I reconnect with friends and look for work. It’s hard at times, reacquainting myself with a city that’s both changed and stayed the same while I was gone. Add to that the fact that I have changed even more than it in the past year. Sometimes I feel like a foreigner even in my hometown, even more than I did when in a foreign country.
Is Europe home for me? Yes. But so, too, is Portland. And New Orleans. And I will make wherever I live next home as well, should I relocate again. So while I have left one home, I have come back to another. And while I came back to my home here, I also left the one I had there. Perhaps it is equal parts curse and gift, this ability to make anywhere I go home. I choose to see it more as a blessing, though: that I can have so many homes all over the world. And so many friends and family waiting for me to come home anywhere and everywhere I go.
My question this post is more on the creative side, and may seem a little random, perhaps it’s because I came up with it in the wee hours of the morning (although this seems to be becoming a regular “most inopportune times” for me. As I think more on it, though, it seems quite appropriate as well. If you were to rename your contact card, just on your own devices, what would you rename it? Something appropriate for who you are, what you do, or what you want to do. I ask this because, in sending myself an Email the other day from my computer, I realized that somehow, my computer had my Email address saved simply as ‘Holidays in United States’. Oddly appropriate, don’t you think? Perhaps a sign of something to come (computer, do you know something you’re not telling me? My google searches are still often giving me French instead of English results, too, and I just don’t have the heart to manually change it)? So what do you think your computer would nickname your Email address if it could?