Returning home from a year abroad has been a cumbersome experience. It isn’t that I expected a surprise party or welcome home banners (though hoped for is another thing entirely), but I did expect all of my loved ones to drop whatever they were doing and demand to see me. Reflecting on this now I see that my expectation may have been a little absurd. While I was out galavanting the world and living my life, everyone else was galavanting around and living their lives as well, even my near and dear. It’s not as though I hoped they were sitting at home pining my absence, it’s just that I did. 

I also expected everything to stay the same. Friends that had traveled for long periods of time warned me not to miss home too much because everything would be exactly the same when I reluctantly returned. I departed from my bedroom at my parents house on January 11th, 2016, assuming that upon my return everything would be right where I had left it. This was not the case, however, seeing as how my mom began using my room for storage. Furthermore, my dog passed away, my friends had life altering experiences that I could not claim to be privy to, and the world went on without me. The nerve. 

My friends had lied, things were different when I came home. My friends and family had changed without even asking if I was okay with it. Everyone had their own tempo to which they were living their lives, and I found myself stumbling to find my pace. If it sounds like I’m bitter, I’m not, just a little too acerbic and facetious for my own good. No, seeing my loved ones happy and blazing trails in the direction of their dreams brings me so much joy. However I am beginning to think that is part of the reason I am having a difficult time finding my rhythm. 

The adventure is over, so now what? I spent the entirety of 2015 laying adventure plans for 2016. 2016 was spent adventuring. I had assumed, or rather desperately hoped, that my own life goals would materialize in my prefrontal cortex before I returned home and started real life. But they didn’t. I am still inhibited with the same feeling that my life is a giant question mark, and now the constants in my life seem more like constantly-changing. I may have had a few freak out moments where I questioned my identity in the last few weeks. Then it began to dawn on me that I had changed just as much as everyone else had. They had found new tempos, but so had I. Maybe my issue was not getting back on beat with my loved ones, but finding and creating a new beat all for myself.

So I didn’t spend a semester in Paris and come home claiming that I’m all cultured now and that my life has been forever altered, but I did figure out that people are constantly changing, myself included. I had almost forgotten that living in another country, away from creature comforts and outside of the bounds of what I was accustomed to, would change me. My values and sanity were put on trial and I think, or at least hope, that I came out on the other side a better person. I came home a different person than the one that left America in January, and now it is my job to find space in my old home for this new tenant. If everyone else in my life is moving away from who they used to be I might as well join the party.

It’s kind of like putting on an old pair of pants. You know that they looked good on you at one point, like really good, but they don’t anymore. Probably because you have changed, or your style has changed, or you’ve outgrown them, but whatever the case they’re not the same. Is that a bad thing? You and that pair of hot pants had a good run but now they sit in a box of memories, at least until they come back in style. I may not have been hit with some big epiphany that stopped me in my tracks and forced me to turn 90 degrees to the right and change course, it’s more like I’m following a trail of bread crumbs. The things that are truly important to me in life have began to make themselves known, so now I am figuring out how to piece them all together into one big loaf. From what I gather, that is what everyone else is doing as well. Some people may be better at making it look easy, but for the most part, everyone is marching to the beat of their own, out of rhythm drum, discordantly but together. I am slowly figuring out how to assimilate to the chaos, and that the life I am living now is just as much of an adventure as the last. 

Published by Alison Howe