I write this post from thousands of feet in the air, somewhere over China. My eyes filled with tears as I watched Thailand disappear from my window seat, just as they did when I left home. I’m on my way back to New York for the first time in nine months. For some, that will seem like an eternity to be away from friends, family, familiarity. For others, it will seem like but a blip in a lifetime of living as an expat or perpetual traveler. To me… it feels like an unanswered question.
I almost didn’t come. An opportunity came up and I struggled whether to take it or not. I weighed and balanced the joys of seeing my loved ones and a city I adore against leaving the island that has finally, finally begun to feel like home. I felt anxiety about upsetting the delicate balance of my happiness. But in the end, a wise friend reminded me that the point of living my life in this particular manner was having the freedom and flexibility to carpe diem– so I seized that day by booking my round trip ticket.
I have such a rush of emotions right now. I’m afraid that I’ll miss Koh Tao terribly. I’m even more afraid that somehow I won’t miss it. I’m afraid Mark and I will miss each other. But I’m even more afraid we’ve forgotten how much we love long distance. I’m most afraid that the carefully crafted vision I have of home will be somewhat smeared by reality.
I was lucky to accompany Mark home to Scotland this summer- his first time home after two and a half years away. I was lucky for a lot of reasons, one of them being I feel more prepared for some of the shock of coming home after nine months away.
I’m not worried about culture shock. I think true culture shock is hard to come by in this modern world. Unless you are living somewhere in the desert or on a remote island and are suddenly plopped into New York City or some other major metropolis for the first time in years, I just don’t really believe in it. I’m not afraid of having a meltdown at the sight of subway trains or getting vertigo and walking into traffic. Though that would make for a pretty fantastic blog post.
What I’m worried about is the disconnect that will inevitably occur between the life that I left behind, frozen in my memory, and the living breathing reality that people and things change, even when I’m not there to observe it first hand. While I romanticize the life and friends that I left behind (as I tend to look at anything in the past tense through rose-colored glasses), they might not have had time to romanticize- they’ve been living it.
As Mark did, as I’m sure I will, and as a million people have before us, I fear looking at myself in the mirror and asking myself the question, Where do I belong now? Am I on my way home right now, en route to New York or will I be on my way home one month from now, when I’m on my way back to Thailand, to travel, to a life of the uncertain?