This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since September 15th. I guess I thought the longer I waited, the easier it would be to express how it feels to be back home again. Turns out those feelings are no less complicated today than they were 3 months ago. The small oddities of returning stateside have nearly all subsided; I don't catch myself washing my hands in cold water anymore, I'm comfortable again behind the wheel, and I don't notice the ridiculous amount of drug commercials on TV quite as much as before. It's been incredible to be back around my family again, to be able to see my sister's senior basketball season, to spend weekends with my friends in Madison or Milwaukee. The hardest part about explaining the difficulties of what it means to come home is sounding like I don't appreciate these things. In reality if I didn't have these joys I can't imagine the unconsolable wreck I would be.
Yet the truth is that this transition has still been very difficult for me. Maybe it is the solitude of rural Wisconsin, polar opposite from my life in a pulsing European city, constantly pulling me back into a state of melancholy and causing me to second guess my decision. It could also be the nagging realization of how little I fit in in the place where I grew up, or how much has changed while I was away, or all that I missed. And at the same time it's thinking about all that I'm missing in the place I left behind. The life that still feels so much a part of me but that I can never be a part of in the same way again. It's my inclination towards worshipping nostalgia-- my ability to close my eyes and picture myself sitting at a bar in La Latina, Malasaña, Huertas, a glass of Verdejo and a dish of olives in front of me and the loud hum of Spanish around me. I feel ungrateful that my memories aren't enough.
Sometimes it's like I've checked into life rehab; I've come back to the serene peaceful countryside to "figure out" what I'm doing, what's next, but there are many days that just feel overwhelming for no apparent reason. I have always considered my knack for managing stress as one of my strengths but twice in the last couple months I have felt on the very edge of debilitating panic attacks. Two times more than at any point in my life before. I ask myself "What's wrong with me?" and so I keep doing what I think I should- applying to jobs, working part time in an industry that makes me feel insane and miserable, smiling and making jokes when friends and family ask how it's all going. Because let's be honest: They don't really want to know, and that's ok! It's not that I think they don't care. But I know that they can't understand. I wonder "When do I get to feel normal again?" and then I think that maybe it's impossible for me to feel normal here in a place I don't fit in.
Maybe this comes down to being forced to grow up and not wanting to. Maybe I'm still just climbing out of the waves of reverse culture shock. Maybe I'm unable to be content anywhere doing anything. But I want to believe that's not the case. I want to be more than content again because content is a lukewarm version of happiness. So I build up on the good days when they outnumber the bad and I just hope for the day when I wake up satisfied with the memories.