Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Journey Home

Traveling home alone was honestly so relaxing. For as much as I love talking and being around people, I also love living inside my own head, listening to music, and not feeling obligated to fill the minutes with words. Thanks to my (newly) ample experience with airports, it was a very smooth trip home. I took a train to Stockholm, a plane from Stockholm to Reykjavik, and another flight Reykjavik to Minneapolis. It wasn't ideal, but for a one way flight it was by far the cheapest option (buy round trip...don't be like me!).

In Minneapolis, I remember this very distinct moment. I was directed to customs in the "US citizens only" area. I was looking around, noticing the northern accent stronger than ever before, and had a very depressing but true thought: "I'm no longer special for being American". It really sunk in that I was just another face in the crowd again. Nobody was going to tell me they loved my accent,  be surprised by my passport, ask if I knew a celebrity, or if cheerleaders were real, or where North Dakota was. It felt so final that I was home, and the place I had just lived for 6 months was all too far away. Seeing my family, I was happy, but it was so different than the straight-out-of-a-movie-scene I had imagined on those gray days in march when I was missing home. 

Aren't they cute?

You see, there is one thing I have a love/hate relationship with about home: it's so easy. Easy. I never get lost, I know who to call if I need anything and they can be there in 10 minutes, I can get in my car and go anywhere anytime, I understand the currency, I can read every sign, I never have to wonder if someone speaks English, everything is so much cheaper, and life is just kind if predictable. Buying a plane ticket to Brussels 5 days before takeoff is simply not an option (yeah, I did that). Easy is nice, convenient, and requires so little effort. But, easy is exactly the thing I was trying to get away from when I made the decision to study abroad. I was born and raised in Grand Forks, and while I do think it's a great place, I'm not too naive to know that the world has so much more to offer. And I was curious as to what I could find that to mean. And I knew it wouldn't be easy, and that those daily challenges would make me a stronger, more confident me. And even if I had been wrong about every other expectation, I was spot on about that one: the fact that I have changed is undeniable. The most obvious being that it is easier for me to be more direct with people. It's so much more effective to communicate that way than the tiptoeing on eggshells thing I used to do. 

When I first got home I was soooo overwhelmed. I had to make appointments with my dentist, optometrist, and doctor, get a (much needed) haircut, figure out my work schedule, and decide who and what to see first. Not to mention where to eat. These all sound like petty things, but it all adds up to feel like a lot to deal with. It is also a bit weird to know that every time you go in public, you will see someone you know and they may or may not ask about the "trip" as many call it (kind of annoying but whatever, I would never call a 6 month relocation a trip, personally). I have been used to literally never knowing a single person when going in public so that's taking some time to get adjusted to.

It's been a couple of weeks and I am so torn about how I feel about this transition. There are so many things/people I missed and I have really enjoyed catching up on that. It is nice to have so much space, but it feels somewhat lonely compared to where I was living in Sweden, with the bustling campus full of life and people shouting being my norm. I go between feeling so happy to see people and go places I had missed and finding myself thinking about how much I miss my friends and life back in Sweden. It's especially hard to accept that even if I went back, it would never be the same. All of them are home, and while the location of where we met is nice, what really mattered is that it is what brought us together. 

Everyone always says "You must be so happy to be home!" But, honestly, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have to say though, it feels good to work and contribute to society again. And I know I will feel better when school starts since I will have so many exciting things going on. But right now, I'm not quite sure what to think of it all. Reverse culture shock is definitely real, believe me. 

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