With my flight landing in Boston on Saturday, August 5th, my mom was waiting. Tears streaming down her face as our eyes met across the terminal. My name being shouted from across the arrivals hall. Relief and comfort filling me as I moved towards her. Our first time seeing each other in person for 2.5 years, though the second we wrapped our arms around each other and fell into conversation, it felt like I had just seen her only the previous week.
That evening, she proudly showed me into her new house, just next door from the one she had lived in for two years prior on Pleasant Lake. In what was to be my new room, there was a colorful, pasteled spray of flowers. Sentimental, fitting quotes penned on a white board, propped up on the window sill. Several of my favorite foods stocked in the fridge (coconut yogurt, raspberries, blueberries, pesto, salmon, sun dried tomatoes, eggs, onion, spinach, sweet potatoes in the pantry- she got the works).
Over the next few weeks, our time together was a flurry of laughter, cooking, baking, heart to heart conversations, going out dancing, bike rides and more. On Saturday, August 12, my mom threw a welcome home party for me. Without question, a total blast. My brother, Spencer flew over from Michigan as surprise for the occasion (my last time having seen him, also over two years prior). The party was such fun. I reveled in every minute of it. Some of my close friends, Alex, Dan and Sarah came. My godmother, Susan and her son, Ben came. Sarah brought her baby daughter, Sophie, who was the star of the show with her ever bubbling giggles and perpetual smiling.
We ate quinoa salad, cookies, cupcakes, grilled chicken and more. Hilarious stories were told. A rowdy game of Cards Against Humanity commenced on the dock, resulting in gut busting laughter and jaws dropped over how raunchy the talk unquestionably got. One of my favorites, this one.
So with that brief introduction, allow me to segue into, list style, what I have found particularly awesome as well as challenging within the past several weeks, in terms of my experiences being back in the US thus far:
1. Job searching. By far, the toughest one. I did not anticipate it taking me this long to find a good job. In the past, I have never been without/between a job for more than a couple weeks, tops. Granted, everyone keeps reassuring me, "Brooke, you just went through a major life transition moving across the world. It hasn't been that long. And you have had interviews, so don't worry. Something will come soon." On one hand, I agree with those points in basic. On the other though, being without a job is not only distressing but its a bad feeling that reverberates out into other aspects of life.
Working gives a sense of purpose and direction to your day. Its fulfilling. A (generally) great feeling. Being without this can lend to days of feeling somewhat aimless, empty, a tad sad and purposeless. Over time, it can quickly grow defeating.
Additionally, not having an income is distressing. Any cent spent is coming out of ones reserves, depleting whatever you have waiting on hand as a safety net but without the usual replenishing an income brings. This contributes (at least for me) to feelings of anxiety and guilt whenever spending money on anything that isn't an absolute necessity. And thus, takes away somewhat from the enjoyment that should be found in things like going out for some fun with friends.
Conversely though, you don't want to feel like that lame stick in the mud who cant do anything because of the given situation. As well as, not wanting friends or loved ones to feel any sense of duty, obligation, or guilt themselves because of your temporary status in being semi broke-as-a-joke. This would be equally as upsetting and uncomfortable.
And finally, just the stigma of not having a job. "Loser," "unmotivated," "sitting around doing nothing," some of the labels I worry about people attributing or thinking. So, not having a job is a multifaceted emotional challenge. One that requires a lot of self talk, inner buoying and positive vibes. Without question, the most difficult emotional hurdle I have encountered thus far. I know "this too shall pass," that its a temporary state and situation, but its a tough one.
2. Old familiar injuries being reopened upon closing physical distance between you and family. In the weeks that followed my arrival, things took a turn for the somewhat tumultuous between my mom and myself. Some old wounds were reopened. Tensions arose. Some deeply hurtful arguments and disagreements came about. Things were addressed and mostly moved through together.
However I think this is par for the course, at least somewhat with many families, when, after having lived far apart for some time and in moving closer to one another again. Old disagreements or injuries are partial to flaring up upon making such a shift. This can be both a good and a bad thing. Bad in that its distressing, and upsetting. Much easier to avoid these difficulties when living further apart. However this can be a good thing in bringing one face to face with tensions or areas in need of healing/being addressed in certain familial relationships. Things that may not have been addressed or brought to such attention if one hadn't moved in closer proximity again. And issues that, assuming you want a relationship with this particular family member, are then worthy of examining.
3. Grocery shopping and Target have become overwhelming, somewhat intense experiences, where they never were prior. I know. Totally weird and nonsensical. Let me preface this by saying that I have loved grocery shopping for years now, and still love it. The perusing of the aisles, selecting things that I want to make and eat over the coming weeks, getting excited upon seeing seasonal, special, or new, interesting ingredients and grabbing one to try out, and stocking the fridge full of delicious foods, I love all of it. This hasn't changed and still thrills me.
However for some unknown (at least consciously) reason now, whenever I go into the grocery store on my own, in walking out an hour later, I feel as though I've been hit by a mack truck. My eyes, suddenly struggling at half mast. Waves of exhaustion crashing over me. Sometimes even feeling slightly dizzy, so tired and run down I am all but stumbling. As though I just spent two hours at the gym, and am now worn out and exhausted (slightly embarrassed to say that this is not an exaggeration).
Target does the same thing to me now, except with an added sheen of melancholy to it. I never felt this way about Target previously, but now it feels depressing and slightly icky to me. Florescent...subtly dirty...vast...far too many choices...over the top...I just don't like it. I know, strange. One of those out-of-left field, odd challenges that seems to have come up.
Kind of a fun article on how too many choices is one of the major roots of unhappiness/distress.
4. The rekindling of many longstanding connections back here in the US. Re-igniting those has been a fulfilling and wonderful thing. Like sliding back into your favorite pair of jeans for over a decade, being thrilled and comforted to find they still fit perfectly. Though I feel I have reconnected with everyone to whom I managed keeping in touch while away, I have especially reconnected closely with a select three or four people. Having grown closer with them in the past 11 weeks than I was with them over the last four years of my being gone. That has been awesome. And there are others that I hope will continue on developing equally as close in the coming months too.
On that same point, its been slightly emotionally challenging and sad for me that with some people whom I had hoped to reconnect with deeply and quickly, its been a more slow moving process. Including one particular female family member whom I had hoped there might be a re-bridging with of sorts. This hasn't happened, much to my initial sadness, and I am not yet sure if/when it may. Though at first, this was a hard pill for me to swallow, I have since worked through that painful letdown and have let go of it for now.
5. Keeping in close touch with all my Germany friends. This has been harder than I thought. It requires so much time. Writing, both listening to and then leaving audio messages via WhatsApp, scheduling Skype calls. Its more than worth it, without question. Whenever connecting with one of them, it fills my heart and day with joy. I miss them deeply and think of many of them daily. I yearn for their company in person. But its also hard, in terms of balancing everything. Job hunting, new goings on over here stateside, reconnecting with friends here, all with making time to keep those connections strong overseas. Its essentially a part time job, in and of itself ;-) Granted, one that I love and am passionate about, but that's what it is in terms of time required.
6. Dating. One of the many small reasons, of which there was a list, that added up in terms of why I left Germany, was the lame dating scene. I don't know what the deal with German men is, but they just do not approach women. Several of my female German friends vouched for this one too. How do people meet then? You are likely asking. Basically, through friends or work. Silly, and so limiting.
Whereas I feel like in countries where people actually approach one another, the possibilities are endless. People can meet through friends, at work, out for drinks, at the library, on the street, online, in a class, at a party, you name it. This is so much more potential packed and exciting. With the prospect and possibility of meeting new friends or your next love anywhere.
I was convinced the US would bring me a far better, livelier, and just more fulfilling dating experience. Simultaneously though, I was worried that maybe I was hyping up the difference too much and would find myself humbled and disappointed in things largely being the same stateside. That maybe I was over blowing the difference between the two cultures too much with regards to dating.
That wasn't so. Not even close. This was, hands down, the most rewarding and exactly-as-I-imagined-it aspect of moving back to the US thus far. Though upon initially returning, I wasn't especially interested in, nor overly motivated towards or concerned with finding a romantic relationship (I more imagined getting a job first-certainly by now, and then getting situated down in Boston, imagining finding a romantic partner something like 6-9 months after my return), still I went on several dates anyway. As a way of pushing my comfort zone (having never been much of a "dater"), as well as wanting to have experiences with varying individuals. Believing it would be beneficial for me to meet different types of people.
I did just that, going on dates with a handful of different men, and not one was bad. In fact, I would categorize all of the dates I went on as being quite good. I chose carefully whom I even agreed to go out with in the first place. Talking with them beforehand to get an idea of what they might be like (articulate, intelligent, both interested and interesting, kind, just generally good dudes) and thus, had a handful of great experiences. Fun conversations, all interesting individuals, lots of laughs, ate some tasty food. I am so glad to have pushed myself in such a way and loved the entire experience.
Especially because it resulted in my meeting someone who was by far, the biggest surprise of my return as of now.
Though its too soon to speak in depth, what I can say is this. This man has surprised me every step along the way. Nearly every assumption or inclination I have had about him, both initially and as we continue along, he has startled me and challenged my assumptions in awesome ways. In picturing the next person I might have a relationship with, he is not what I would have drawn up. And so far, that's the been pretty dang awesome.
I am learning more and more as I go through life that often, we may think we know what we want. Basing such an image on a culmination of past experiences or just...things we think will be "ideal" or make us happy, when in fact, we are often wrong. There is so much outside the narrow scope of experience and knowledge each of us have which can also fulfill, delight, and enrich us, outside of what we have already established knowing we like or want. Things we might never have imagined or considered. We tend to forget this and instead, focus on what we "already know we like/want." This is why going outside your norm or usual can be wildly rewarding, I am now further learning. Sometimes, what you actually want or need is nothing like what you assumed or thought. It pays to step outside of the usual narrow perimeters you may have set for yourself. I think it was Mark Twain who summed up what I am trying to say best. "Why not go out on a limb? Thats where the fruit is."
So, in conclusion, making the leap back to life in the US after four years of living in Europe has been not without its challenges. In fact, there have been many sizable ones. There have also been things I worried about upon return which never made an appearance: reverse culture shock, and experiencing feelings of regret at having come back. Neither one has touched upon me (as of now at least) even once. Another surprise regarding my experience thus far in returning.
However, in taking the leap and following my intuition which was urging me towards making this move for the year leading up to, I have been richly rewarded in several poignant, awesome ways. I am looking forward with great anticipation to what else lies in store in the coming months of further readjusting to stateside living. As of now, returning has taught me one big thing: listen to your heart is saying to you. Especially if what its telling you aren't mere occasional whisperings (which can just be normal fears or the usual complex human thinking voicing its opposing worries in a given life moment-not necessarily worthy of listening to with any great seriousness as everyone battles dueling tensions and worries inside sometimes), but instead, listening to your hearts speakings when what its saying is a continual, strong, consistent message. More often than not, it tends to be onto something.
For Part One of this article, "Making the decision to move back home from abroad" in the first place, click the link here.