Earlier this year I told a friend that I love saying goodbye – that there’s something poetic and beautiful about allowing a part of your life to end as a new chapter begins. He told me I was crazy to think that. But I guess naivete is the after-hours lover to romanticism. Sure, it sounds poetic to say that a heart is breaking as it flies below the rising sun on a country that it may never see again. In reality, it’s ugly crying, sniffling and avoiding those ‘all too real’ goodbyes because something weird and remotely painful is happening inside your chest.
Two weeks ago, I set off on the inevitable journey home, and I never even properly said goodbye to the country and the people that I called home for four months. Sure, I went for a walk around the neighborhood and drank a goodbye coconut. I even had one last hurrah ended in bittersweet tears (in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a bit of a crier, folks). But when it came to the actual, heartfelt goodbyes, I couldn’t do it.
A last-minute memo that our flight from Bangalore was delayed turned our heartfelt goodbyes into quick ‘see-ya’s’ as I booked it off the plane to make my next flight that left for Seattle only twenty minutes later. A series of panicked marathon sprints from one flight to the next left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. That night left no time or energy for anything remotely emotional, but still hurt my heart in the way only a truly bittersweet moment can. When I stepped onto U.S. soil for the first time in four months, I was physically exhausted and bursting at the seams with unspent emotion.
The days since I’ve been back have been a toxic cocktail of extreme jetlag, delayed sorrow at leaving, joy at seeing everyone and everything familiar, all while feeling like living life in my normal small-town Idaho isn’t actually real life anymore.
Acclimating back into ‘normal’ life has been as hard as everyone said it is, in all the weirdest ways.
I now have no idea where to find the light switch when going into restrooms (I always try to flip the switch on the outside) and when I think about taking a shower, I immediately go to flip the switch to turn the hot water heater on. My body has no idea what temperature it is outside, and I switch rapidly from being way too hot, to absolutely freezing.
The summer always brings a freshly emptied town to Moscow, Idaho and I can’t help but wonder where all the people are. In Bangalore, I couldn’t walk down the street without seeing dozens of people walking and chatting throughout the day. Now, I’m lucky if I see a dozen people at any given moment. There’s so many wide-open spaces it makes me uncomfortable and the nights are so quiet I have to play Netflix just to break the earie silence that descends after nightfall.
I accidentally stop traffic because I forgot that people in the U.S. don’t actually weave between moving lanes of cars (sorry guys). I’m less aggressive when driving, but even more annoyed that I have to wait for a passing lane when I want to pass someone driving the speed limit. I forgot what it’s like to see cops patrolling the roads and that I have to be cognizant about the way I look when I’m driving.
I’m constantly surprised and second guessing the intentions of anyone who smiles at me just to be friendly. Wearing a tank top in public makes me supremely uncomfortable, and I can’t seem to stop staring at the sidewalk while I’m walking to check for random broken pieces. Engaging in casual conversation with the local barista in the mornings makes me pause for a moment and wonder what his ulterior motive is.
Worst of all, I have a serious case of homesickness for a place that I spent less than half a year in. I miss the spicy food, the spicy chai and the fans that tone down the spicy heat of Southern India. I miss the insanity of the traffic – the way your heart would beat a little bit faster as you dodged the speeding mopeds every time you crossed the road. I miss the uneven sidewalks and the thin layer of dust that coats everything by mid-morning. I miss the shoddy local parks that’s home to cows and dogs and humans alike. I miss the passionate social movements making news every day. But the thing I miss the most are the people I met while living abroad. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many radically opinionated and simply wonderful people.
The people I met while studying abroad in Bangalore challenged me, supported me, loved me and celebrated with me in a way that no one can ever understand or replicate. The girls I lived with and the friends I made have forever changed myself and the way I look at life. I know everyone who goes abroad says the same thing, but I feel truly blessed to have met so many incredible people. I can only hope that my life continues to be graced by such funny, cultured and incredible human beings.
When the dust settles and all is said and done, I honestly no longer feel comfortable living my simple life in Idaho. Sure, it’s good to be back in the familiar routine of life and to see all the people I love and missed while abroad, but I can’t help but feel like I left a bit of my heart in Southern India. Somehow, I’m not really sure where “home” is anymore, but I know that I need to keep traveling to find it.