It’s been a while. Honestly, I’ve needed some time to process on my own. Yet in the past few weeks, I have been having the urge to write. Word vomit everything I have been feeling.
Really, to describe what I have been feeling these past two months since arriving back to the United States is hard. I’m not sure if there is a word. Except maybe rollercoaster. Ups and downs, twists and turns. So buckle up and feel free to come along for the ride if you want (aka, this could be a long blog post, but don’t say I didn’t warn you….)
Let’s just say in the weeks leading up to my last days in Malaysia, I was not excited to come back “home.” Now, for those nearest and dearest to my heart, don’t take this the wrong way because I was beyond excited to see all of you! But I kind of had a really great thing going, and wasn’t quite ready to give it up. I was with amazing people and communities. My faith was growing. My life was focused on serving God and serving others. On being present in the here and now. And quite frankly, I was scared of coming back to a place I call “home,” not knowing what that even looked like anymore. Not knowing how I would fit in to my own culture and country.
Yet in my first month back, I found myself thinking this is too easy. I had prepared myself for the worst. Reverse culture shock was not a word I was even familiar with before YAGM. During orientation before leaving for Malaysia, when people talked about reverse culture shock being worse than initial culture shock, I thought, “yeah right!” No way possible. But as the weeks approached to leave Malaysia, I fully grasped what they meant. I got it. I really did. And so I was prepared for it to hit me full force.
Yet, I didn’t really feel like anything hit me. I was a little jet lagged for a short time, but nothing major. And it was absolutely wonderful connecting with friends and family. Dinner and coffee dates catching up on the past year. Visiting family and seeing friends for the first time in a long time. Enjoying the company of wonderful people.
So when things seemed to being going, well seamless, I started doubting. Sure I missed, and am still missing, my family and friends in Malaysia hardcore. But where was the reverse culture shock? Was I not as close to my communities as I thought? Had I not delved into the culture as much as it felt I had? All along had I been clinging onto my American values, which was why things were going so well upon my return?
I shouldn’t have feared so much because after about a month the rollercoaster high of being “home” started to fade, and the rollercoaster started to take a dip. The dinner and coffee dates ended. I started preparing and packing to move to the Los Angeles area to start advanced training in sensory integration through the University of Southern California. The fear of living in a big city where I knew no one began creeping in.
And the fear of a completely unknown future after mid-December. All those get-togethers with friends who seem to have it all together with jobs and buying homes and starting families made me wonder what the heck am I doing?? I’m a 27-year with no job, no concrete life plan starting next year, and living in my parent’s guest bedroom. Uffda!
All the questions about Malaysia and living in community and serving God stopped abruptly from those around me. And instead were greeted with the million dollar questions of, “So what are you going to DO now?” “Where are you getting a job?”
And all the things I had stepped away from when I made the decision (and the absolutely best decision ever!) to join YAGM, came crashing back. Suddenly American standards of success were smack dab in my face again. And oh man, even though, I made a decision a year and half ago not to let my life be defined by these things, it is really hard not to get sucked right back in again. Boy, is it amazing how fast it happens.
Over the past three weeks, the rollercoaster of life has been cruising at a comfortable pace. I love the training program and everything I am learning, and it is great to be back in the clinic a few times a week practicing occupational therapy again. I am living with a wonderful family who has welcomed me with open arms, including me in some family events and inviting me to share a few meals with them. I found a church I love that has an active young adults group. And much to my own surprise, I am actually liking Southern California. I mean, who doesn’t like 80+ degree weather at the end of September?
As much as I feared the unknown of my next step after YAGM, in my short-time here, I am realizing that the very things that defined my time in Malaysia, are defining my time now. Being present. Valuing my relationships with fellow students, staff at the pediatric therapy center, church members, and those that I live with. Slowly learning to trust God. And I emphasize the slowly, because this is a process.
As terrifying as the ride has been, especially terrifying in not knowing what twists and turns are up ahead in the future, the post YAGM rollercoaster ride sure beats any amusement park.
Becky : )