Monday, June 23, 2014

Where is home?

I've been home for six weeks now. I decided to blog because my 8 months in Spain continues to influence me here in Arkansas. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss my Spanish life, family, friends, and culture. My experience abroad is still so much a part of who I am. One of the first things I tell people when meeting them is that I lived in Spain, as if without knowing that piece of information, they wouldn't really know me. Of course, most people only acknowledge it, say "that's cool," and the conversation moves on to something else. I don't blame them. It's much easier to talk about something everyone relates to. And I guess that's what's so disheartening about being back in America. While all of my highschool friends talk about their first year of college, roommates, and frat parties, I keep silent for one of three reasons: A) mentioning that you lived in Europe makes you come across as a prick, B) mentioning that you legally drank sangria by the river on the weekends/ went bar hopping/ clubbing tends to win over red solo cups, C) mentioning how awesome your host mom was really detracts from the college roommate horror stories. I've just learned to accept that my experience was unique and that no one cares about it as much as I do (except of course all of the wonderful people who were there with me.)  I've also had to accept that the world didn't stand still when I left and that everyone else has changed too.  It can put a lot of distance between myself and people who used to be a part of my everyday life. We have different paths out into the world now and less in common. Change is inevidable, but I appreciate the time that our paths intertwined.

Right before I returned up until now, I've gone through through reverse culture shock. There are generally four stages of it: Disengagement, Initial euphoria,Irritability and hostility, and Readjustment and adaptation. On the plane ride home, I was really excited to return to my previous life. I had all of these ideas and images in my head of how great home would be. And while, I was happy to see everyone and everyone was happy to see me, my initial excitement only lasted a few days. After that, I fell into a post-Spain depression. I longed to return to my days of siestas. I felt like no one understood me. I was critical of the US, of our wastefulness, our wealth, and our attitude. I felt like a stranger in my home. My independence was threatened as I readjusted to living with my parents, rather than a host family who didn't really set boundaries. I kept seeing all of the negative aspects of my return, rather than the positives of my journey. I've now adapted back into American life, but it's not the same as it was and I'm not the same I was. Back in the spring, I spontaneously applied to be a summer camp counselor at a camp near my house. I figured it would be a good way to be home for the summer and to have a little bit of adventure. This job is a lot less glamorous than my travels, but it's been more rewarding than I could have imagined. It's hot, dirty, humid, and I don't have time for a siesta. But I get to be outdoors all day, meet people from all over, and stargaze at night. It's truly a beautiful place and it's been a humbling experience. I think I'm learning how to just be without things I thought were necessities before: my iPhone, air conditioning, and makeup. Not only did I grow as person abroad, but I'm growing in Ferndale, Arkansas too. A place where I thought I might shrink. You see, you don't always need to travel to find yourself. I'm learning things about myself here that Spain couldn't have taught me. As much as I wanted to see the glass half-empty this summer, it's getting pretty full.

I plan on going to college in the fall. I plan on spending summers traveling. Maybe I'll go to South America or spend a year in France somewhere in between. I'm going to do whatever makes me feel whole and I'm going to be completely myself, two things I had never been this time last year. I'll keep this blog and update it occasionally, and when I have time, reflect more on some memories. But for now, I'm still getting used to being here and it's an adventure in itself.