7 weeks 8 weeks* since I arrived back in Melbourne and it has been anything but smooth sailing.
Ive come to recognise that much like my life in Leiden it is next to impossible to settle down into a routine because I am still far too mobile and unsettled. I keep trying but after a long distance phone call with my best friend the other day, and chatting to a few other friends who have done long term travel, I think I’ve just about accepted that I will probably never “settle” ..or at least not any time soon. People sometimes refer to themselves as having wrestles feet, and being incapable of staying in the same place for too long. Well I too agree that I adore traveling and adventuring, but I dont need to travel to find adventure. Especially at the moment having still just arrived home. I am more than happy to be in Melbourne. Or at least I am now. In the last week and a half I think I’ve found happy. A place that hasn’t felt whole in a while. A place I’ve danced in and walked miles and miles into by myself, but a place that I realised by going, that I can’t be entirely content with, without certain company. This isn’t to say that I won’t travel solo again, no no no. This is just to say that one of the things I came home for was my friends and family, to be here as my sister grows up and starts this next stage of her life.
Coming home has looked like this
Immediately – Shiny, bright, exciting and full of expectations and reunions.
Week 1 & 2 – A couple of workless weeks to find my feet and try and ease into things.
Week 3 – OVERLOAD! Crazily unadvisable amount of work and netball umpiring, uni or rather lack there of time for, long commutes, falling out of a recently established routine, functioning at a million + 1 while simultaneously driving myself into the ground and into complete physical and emotional over load. Too much. Far too much!
Week 4 – Repairing the damage. Slowing down. Catching up and getting on top of uni. No work. Trying to do those things I promised myself I would. Maximising time and seeing slow but definite progress.
Week 5 – Breathe but get excited because here’s Comm Ball and Easter and mid sem break!
Week 6 – On day 1 I’m tired, but I’m hoping for something resembling week 4 but with a more successful balance by working a little as well.
Week 7 – ^^Revisiting the draft I saved from last week when I was too tired to spend adequate time finishing it. Because… I realised that when writing this post I had two intentions, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to cover both of these in this blog post. Yet at the same time I don’t think I want to break them into two posts, but perhaps I will. <That’s something I love about writing this, or even running on a tangent of my own thoughts, either verbalised or written. Something I’ve only noticed in recent months, made increasingly evident by writing here. I don’t always know what a post will look like when I’m finished with it. I might start with one idea, and then by the time I come to click publish it is not at all what I imagined. Better yet I will have had an epiphany mid way or worded my way down a path where I realise something I didn’t know I was even looking for.
Take this post for example, I currently think I am about to break it into two more specific blog posts. The initial title for this post was Reverse Culture Shock & Trying to find Happy. But now I feel like I’ve rattled on for 618 words about my time back in Melbourne, which as a result of each individual week has somehow ended up plonking me (I want to say “squarely” but I feel like that would be too neat, so lets say…) hexagonally in happy. Why couldn’t I be happy initially you might ask? When I had been pining for here, as I’ve talked about previously, and finally back with friends and family, in Melbourne. Well the answer is, there is no simple answer. Only that, I was gone for 8 months. There’s something I’ve tried explaining to a few friends to describe how you go about refreshing a friendship that has gone a little cold over time without a little TLC. This was actually the result of one of those times I just started talking with no expectation that I would actually end up voicing an epiphany half way through that would make every thing else crystal clear, and finally make perfect sense, explain something that up until now seemed perplexing.
So you’ve got those friendships with people you can not see or speak to for months and months and when you do catch up it’s like nothings ever changed and you have tons to catch up on and its great! Well those relationships surprise surprise, I’ve found, have the least trouble adapting and surviving long distance and lengthy periods of separation. Then you have those friendships with those people that you see every single day! Or at least very frequently. Those people that know a lot about what is going on in your life. The people that will ask if your shirt is new because they haven’t seen you wear that one. Or if you’ve heard back from the professor you emailed earlier that day about such and such ..blah blah you get the point. Anyway! In my recent experience those survive, but not without a couple of awkward pauses or silences here and there where the usual chatter that would fill it comes from daily experiences and life happenings of doing things together. You can’t leave for 8 months and come back and expect to know the precise details that have been going on in their lives that are too trivial and meaningless to mention when communicating cross continentally!
Sure we talked while I was away, but it was more about bigger things, or even more removed things, and much less frequently. It would be something along the lines of “What have you been up to?” “Just uni, work, the usual. You?” “Ah yeah, just spent the weekend in London, got home today”. The nitty gritty details were omitted, because they were either not relevant for the other person, or two alternatives which I am uncomfortably aware of…
1. I wouldn’t want to seem like I was bragging by giving off too many details about wherever I was ‘this time’ because people don’t appreciate hearing all about all these amazing things you’re doing all the time. So I am uncomfortably aware to tell people I had a great time but only go into greater detail if someone shows specific interest or asks. It can rub people up the wrong way, or grow weary, and the last thing I want to do is seem obnoxious. My friends do it as a joke sometimes if I make mention of something from when I was away “When I was in ____ …” & the response would cut me off with something like “Oh I’m Bianca and I’ve travelled!”..or something along those lines < My intention of course was NEVER to appear arrogant or brag about anything I’ve done. No. I would just be trying to contribute to a conversation or say something and my example would be from somewhere else because I literally have no other point of reference because the last 8 months of my life have been overseas! If I’m to talk about anything at all its probably going to be from sometime somewhere that’s not here. This makes me extremely self conscious and I would feel like a turtle retracting into its shell, trying not to offend or do anything wrong to upset anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable, including myself.
Instance 2. and this is my biggest Pet peeve now. People compare themselves to what I’ve done, diminishing their own achievements and experiences in light of what I have just done. I hate it! It is so untrue and puts me on some kind of pedestal I do not deserve and should not be put on. Yes travelling is amazing, and yes I’ve just done an enormous trip, and yes it was Europe, and yes it’s exciting and incredible BUT it is glorified to a point where anything else pales in comparison and it’s unnecessary and unfitting! I would ask people about something going on in their life, a trip, a weekend away, a festival, just what’s going on in their life or what they have been up to in the past few months and too often their response included something like ”
Life is about timing and what different people want and what their priorities are. Right now this is what I did. That’s not to say it’s any better than what someone else is doing. We all do what we have to do. If right now what you want is to do X then that’s fantastic and I want to hear about it. If you want to go and do something else then that’s okay too because you will get there. However it doesn’t make what you’re doing currently any less significant or enjoyable than what I’m doing. It doesn’t work like that. It is so easy to see traveling the world as this luxurious, phenomenal, picture perfect experience, in comparison to whatever boring day job or mediocre, average, ‘just another day’ you’ve had. But you know what? The gap isn’t as far apart as you space them in your mind. If you live right where you are then you should be enjoying yourself. If you have a boring day then do something that makes you smile. Do something that makes you happy, something that you enjoy. Because I can promise you that whilst traveling there are days that are not so picture perfect or luxurious. Days when you wish for the creature comforts of your “average” life back home [“average” in this instance meaning not out of the ordinary, rather than of average quality]. Days when you cry to yourself because you wish for the familiarity and comforts of your usual day to day happenings. Sorry about the extended rant…I did warn you earlier on in the post that I have a tendency to do that when I get going. To finish though, those second friendships with people you saw all the time are in certain cases just going to take a little bit of extra time until they are running as smoothly and comfortably as they once did. Until you will have spent enough recent time with them to know what is going on in their lives and have recent memories and things to talk about rather than memories or small talk across continents.
Anyway back to finding happy… The reason I can’t seem to disentangle reverse culture shock and finding happy from one another is because I’ve been living through reverse culture shock ever since I got home, and through doing so I have managed to find happy. It has taken a bit of time because of reverse culture shock, and I would even say I have succeeded in finding happy despite reverse culture shock. It’s not pleasant trying to find ones feet in a place where before I left my life was perfect and this awkward period would never have previously been necessary. But what I realised with a little time was that I just had to start living and things would settle and fall into place. The chips would fall where they would and the only way to overcome the initial discomforts of reverse culture shock was to start living and keep going. It’s like building a fire, you need to be patient and persistent while you get it going, and then given just the right combination of elements it will catch and roar to life by itself – come back to life by itself* < But with the added bonus of an eight month adventure full of memories, discoveries, things realised and lessons learnt.