Coming home from China was more mentally and emotionally challenging than going to China.  I won’t say that it was physically more challenging, because for the first week I spent in China, I slept no more than eight or ten hours total.  There is a certain strangeness to be back in this place, at this time, and with these people, as if everything has changed yet everything is precisely the same.

I’ve long had difficulty with feelings of inclusion.  I’ve had them since I was an elementary schooler trying to fit in with peers who weren’t…huge nerds.  I really prefer to spend my time alone, but there’s a certain sense of having missed something huge here, that, while everyone denies that I missed anything at all, plans are already in motion and things are happening.  I am not sure if I want to or can necessarily jump on board.  And moreover, I have my own plans that are in motion.  Or not in motion, anymore.  There’s something peculiarly frustrating about coming home from there to here.  This is not the home I hoped for while I was away.  There is something wrong with it.  There is a disconnect between my vision of home and the reality of home.

There are some basic things that I think most people who go and immerse themselves in a foreign culture for some time experience.  There are some things that bother me about coming home that are sort of natural-seeming to me, that nobody can really help so much as I just have to get used to again, like paying so much for food, traffic laws, English speakers on every corner, a different pace and rhythm of living.

And I don’t mind so much being dispossessed — I still have a subletter until the end of June, and so I technically don’t have a bed of my own to sleep in.  Having a bed of my own isn’t so bad.  In fact, I tend to sleep in other people’s beds more often anyway.  I do mind not being able to find the things I left in my house.  I’m having a hard time finding my belongings — a set of wrenches and a mandolin have recently turned up when before I thought they were missing — but there are others I still haven’t seen and nobody seems to grasp the urgency with which I feel like I need to see and touch and use the physical objects that I left behind that I value the most.

I also mind the quantity and quality of substance abuse.  I forgot how insular Ann Arbor is, I suppose, and I forgot how easy it is to slip into casual drug use in the summers.  I don’t mean to point any fingers here, and there is a certain guilt I bear, but that is also the past — last summer was a flurry of insanity — and I have learned things since then that make the current developments deeply disturbing and sad.  I’m not sure how to broach the topic with anybody, but maybe this is my passive-aggressive way of expressing my worry and displeasure about the current situation.

I feel like I’ve missed this essential first month and a half.  People seem to be locked into their summer schedules, their new modes of living.  I know they’re temporary, but there are some things about these temporary modes that produce permanent changes.  Maybe the best way to put it is, I’m disillusioned.  I had a vision of home that shone and smiled and played guitar in the basement, but that’s not the reality of here and now.  And I wonder if anybody else is as disturbed as I am.  I wonder if anybody sees that there’s something strange going on here.

And I’m worried, very worried, that other things I have high expectations for are going to flop.  The future is exciting and I’m very much looking forward to charting a new course from here, but what if I’ve idealized away the dirty reality of other things in my life while being away?

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