Leaving the United States has been a reprieve from a lifestyle. I don’t mean to place negativity on America, because it hasn’t all been an intentional effort to disconnect (though admittedly some of it has). People are stressed there, and our culture has a much different set of values than this place does. I’m more relaxed here and free from some past baggage. My network has changed drastically. Living thousands of miles away from your former life creates an inevitable schism in your relationships.
I’m now facing the impending, uneasy reacquaintance with that life. There’s so much of it I’m looking forward to, though: I can easily call my family and close friends again, visit and travel with them, eat and drink with them… There’s comfort in that and a lot of love to be shared. People with whom I’ve kept in touch from this side have an idea of what my life has been like these past two years and have kept me updated on theirs. It will be seamless and easy to renew our bonds.
However, there’s a certain amount of awkwardness and guilt associated with others. I did seek a sort of “reset button” when I left, and I have felt relief in closing some chapters of my US life. But I didn’t necessarily prepare for that with others. The world is small and I wonder how some encounters will play out. The US is fast-paced and busy (that’s part of the reason I left), but I have been so fortunate with relentless support from some people. Friends and family have kept in email contact and some even buy Skype credit to call me regularly. It has been an incredible display of commitment and encouragement, which has been a crucial grounding throughout this experience. Comparing that with the relative indifference I’ve felt from others is the challenge.
What should I expect from people who were formerly central to my social life and identity? Living in the bush is like a get out of jail free card: my relative lack of access to internet and resources (I’m a poor volunteer) removes some guilt from my end. But how much time does it take to send an email? Or put a post card in the mail? I can ask these questions of myself, for I certainly haven’t been the best at this. This severed (or weakened) tie was not deliberate. Was our relationship one of convenience and proximity? Maybe the line isn’t so finite – I didn’t exactly ask everyone to maintain a long-distance friendship with me, I just thrust it upon them. Neglect was made on both ends. Shall we just call it even?
Homecoming should be absent begrudging hostility. I’m excited to go home, after all, because America is a place of wonderful people, infrastructure, food, productivity, live music, showers, big cities, central air conditioning… the list goes on. Before I get to all that, I need to reconcile that imbalance, and leave behind any bitterness. Readjustment is going to be hard enough.