Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Over More Than Just Jet Lag

Now is the season of graduations and weddings; with these milestones come a readjustment from familiarity into something new and completely different. Change is an absolute of life; regardless of circumstances, we know life never stops changing. Right now, I am trying to figure out how to move from something new and completely different (traveling Asia for 5 months), to settling back into the familiar.

Since being back, there are aspects about small-town America I have come to appreciate. Below is a list of comforting things about the U.S. you also may be taking for granted:

1. Understanding and being understood by everyone - yes, English!
2. Grunting, pointing, and charades are unnecessary in daily life
3. The ability to read...everything
4. Drinking water straight from the faucet
5. An expanded wardrobe
6. Friends and family being awake the same time you are
7. Understanding the rules of traffic
8. No bones in your meat / knowing what kind of meat you're eating
9. Dirt roads / green, wide-open fields / clean, fresh air
10. Actually waiting in a line
11. Putting your feet on furniture
12. Blending in with the people around you
13. The general understanding that running is a common and acceptable recreational activity - something not unusual or worthy of overt staring

Also, here is a list of things about Asia that I already miss:

1. Public transportation
2. New experiences / the adventure aspect
3. Thai food - authentic curry!!
4. Job opportunities
5. Milk tea
6. Cheap, real fruit smoothies
7. Unpredictability of daily life
8. Successfully ordering mocha-flavored ice cream in Mandarin at McDonald's
9. Mentally converting Chinese yuan or Thai baht into USD and feeling very satisfied with how little I spent
10. Meeting other expats with intriguing stories

The strangest thing about change is we are often unaware that it's constantly taking place. I didn't feel like I was growing or changing in Asia—I was just living. Yet, when I was finally taken out of the new and unfamiliar, I found that even the previously known and understood had changed, or at least my perception of it.

I was expecting to be mildly depressed after returning home. I anticipated that the transition back into normal American life would be quite difficult...if not boring. Those feelings haven't set in yet. Granted, it hasn't even been a week.

However, I think my worldview has changed, which might save me from my fears of disheartenment. I shared a moment of this realization in my last post (Lost in Chiang Mai).

A good word to describe my life during and after traveling: deflated.

It's the little, mundane, pointless, insignificant, annoying trivialities that make up the majority of our lives. Yet, these meaningless moments are where purpose is found, we can't escape them, no matter where we are.

We don't need to make the mundane magnificent, we just need to acknowledging that the mundane is the reality of life. There's no need to search for something better; instead, we should stop for once and say, I want to be in this moment. I want to be present in the moments, not because they are thrilling or captivating to the imagination, but because they are life—they are what it means to be human—not to simply exist, but to appreciate one's own existence.

Even the most exciting experiences will eventually become ordinary. Excitement is not enough. The human condition requires more.

Change—whether it's graduating, a death in the family, taking off your socks, getting married, travelling to Europe, or replacing your toothbrush—constantly takes place. Even if we don't like the change at first, we know it's in the discomfort of the unknown that we grow.

We also grow in the small moments of life. Everything was once unfamiliar. No matter how great or small our experiences might be, the unfamiliar eventually must become familiar. As a result, our world constantly stretches outward; the small ways are just as important as the big ones.

I suppose that's where I'm at right now: acknowledging the fact that I don't need to be far away or engaged in stimulating experiences to grow. Even the magnificent becomes mundane eventually. Also, in the mundaneness, there is still so much to learn—it's just harder and less fashionable.
“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” ― Elizabeth Lesser


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