Officially, we are a month of the program ending, and I am a little before three weeks back in the United States. I'm settled in Chicago now, ready to start a summer of working and exploring somewhere new.
A few days after being back in the US, I returned to California for the first time in a year and a half, excited to spend a week and a half visitng my mom and reacquainting myself with my hometown. We were prepped again and again to prepare for reverse culture-shock, to brace for the impact that coming back to the United States might have on us.
It took four days. Four days in, and I wanted to wear noise-cancelling headphones everytime I went out in public, convinced that everything back in the US was just so loud. Part of the roughness of the transition came from being in a place where I had complete agency of everything I did - I could walk to the grocery store, an art museum, a shop if I needed anything - to somewhere I didn't. Back in California, I felt a little stranded, reintroduced to a lifestyle in which cars were necessary for just about everything. It didn't take much to ask for a ride from my family or a friend, but I felt different, less independent. Part of my struggle came from being back in a place that I had't been in so long and feeling so young again.
It took a few days, but I managed to work through my initial wave of those negative emotions. I reached out immediately to my friends, expressing what I was feeling. The opportunity just to get it all out and have my emotionals validated helped a lot.
My next step was to try and treat everything as An Experience. When I first made it to Dublin, I made a point to try and treat everything as a moment, something to be savoured and really appreciated. From my first trip to a coffee shop to my first proper cup of tea, I embraced it all. Coming back to the US, particularly to a place where I hadn't been in so long, I treated it the same. From a chai tea latte from my favorite coffee shop back in Salinas to the moment I stepped foot in my all-time favorite thrift store again, I encouraged myself to embrace the moment as fully as possible.
Things have changed. I have changed. Being back in the US, I'm inundated with America pop culture and politics in a way that feels overwhelming after keeping everything at arms-length for so long, but I'm trying to catch up on the things that I've missed slowly. I've definitely had a bit of 'fear of missing out' in my transition periods, both because so much seems to be going on back at Dublin and back at my homeschool. I've sadly, but necessarily, had to unsubscribe from certain email lists, like Ryanair or Hostelworld, because the reminders can make me a little sad. I've tried to make an effort to stay off of social media, and that's definitely helped.
Being back in the US, and back in my hometown, made me realize how much time really had passed. There are new billboards up, new construction, different laws (finally, the plastic bag ban!!).
I wonder in what ways my change is the most obvious. There are things that I've definitely noticed - I have more faith in myself with public transportation and directions, feel more comfotable doing things by mself. I wonder what others have noticed, if there are parts of me that seem obviously different.
Returning to the US was both difficult and easy. I really, really missed the variety of cereal we have and I'm glad to be reunited with my one true love, Target. I feel like I'm actively noticing different parts of my coutry and my city than I was before, now having something to compare to. I miss the possibility of jetting off somewhere exciting (or even warm) over the weekend, but being in a city like Chicago, with so much to do, helps.
Writing this post has been a challenge, because part of it feels like a wrap-up. There's no way to quantify or summarize the past few months of my life. The usual adjectives - great, exciting, different - feel lacking. I accomplished my biggest dream to date, saw and did so much.
Mostly, what I want to take from all of this is the ability to treat every moment like an experience, an opportunity to enjoy and embrace and observe, to notice something new. At the very least, I want to keep journaling and collecting postcards - my two constants in Dublin and everywhere else, and my biggest reminders of all that has happened.
Thank you all so much for reading, enjoying the rants and the raves. It's been very theruaptic writing to you all.
Cheers for now,
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<p>California to (nearish) Chicago to Dublin; creative writing major, gender studies minor. I am very excited to get lost.</p>