Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Being Back

I'm having trouble.

362 days ago we set out on this epic journey. One year later, everything looks exactly the same...the plants, the freeway, the sunshine, and it makes me wonder if I just imagined the whole thing.

Even though we spent the last six weeks in Mexico, I'm still experiencing what I can only guess is culture shock. I think the culture I'm exiting is called "Traveler."

I'm wandering around aimlessly wearing my passport belt and Ron says it's awkward to pull my credit card out from underneath my pants at Starbucks. I have a cell phone and the blasted thing sings, tweets, vibrates and blinks completely on its own schedule. My clothes don't fit. Not like my elastic waist, friction-free travel wardrobe anyway.

We were in a sports store yesterday and I ran straight to the clearance rack to find a replacement dri fit shirt. I was halfway through my task when I remembered that I don't only wear garments that fold down to nothing and can be washed in the sink. I burst into tears.

Things that were so clever just a few weeks ago are socially awkward now. Like, carrying a spoon everywhere I go. Here, that seems more homeless than genius.

It took time to get used to washing my underwear in the sink each night, but now I mistrust my cotton ones and feel lonely for my evening ritual.

My parents want to know why I constantly spit in the shower and ask for a cup of clean water to brush my teeth.

I don't understand why I can't wear my sports watch with my dress to church. It's been my constant companion, and I trust it to be quiet a heck of a lot more than this damn cell phone.

What about my hair? It's long and traveler shaggy. The last time I had hair this long was early college. As a professional I had short, chin length hair. Now, I'm going to be a professional student...so do I cut it halfway between the two? Cutting my hair seems like I'm chopping off memories of bleaching sun and unbelievable humidity and Ron learning to French Braid. But, keeping it this long here is sloppy and feels like I'm trying to relive the past. For now, I'm getting increasingly sick of it being so long, but letting myself put off the decision until I'm really ready to exit the trip.

I need to let go. What's so funny is that I had a whole process adjusting to liking all this. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was stressed about how 1.7 ounces of shampoo would last three weeks (my hair was much shorter then, by the way). Now, when Ron runs out of deodorant, using baby powder as a "close enough" alternative feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Some of my newfound "normal" I don't want to let go. I learned incredible simplicity...I can live without so much! I don't want to learn that I need a purse, a cell phone, a wallet, a computer, a key, more than one pair of shoes and toilet paper. But, it turns out I live in the US and wearing tennis shoes to a fancy restaurant is weird.

It feels a little like there's this triangle. At one corner is the normal of my old, Portland working life. At another is the normal of my travel life. At the third is the new normal of my future Boston student life. All three are me. And, no matter which one I get closer to I feel farther from another. I want to make a pyramid and sit upon the top where all three lines come together. Instead, I feel like I'm playing this endless game of red rover with all three teams asking to "send Trina right over."

I found a little black dress I'd stored at my in-laws' house and putting it on it felt good to look like a woman. I wore a bracelet but couldn't quite bridge the gap to makeup. I'd gotten used to my gender-neutral-jungle-bob look. But, there are some advantages to ditching the stretchy pants.

Slowly but surely, I'm adjusting.


Mystery Robin said...

Fabulous post, Trina. I could feel the tension as you explained it. I think we go through periods of adjustment periodically in life. I know I still feel like college Robin and working Robin, even though now I'm stay at home mom, Robin. And just like you - all three come with wildly different wardrobes!

watluk said...


Emily said...

It's tough. Stick with it -- wait a week, then, before it's quite comfortable to do so, cut your hair (it's liberating!). Find a killer outfit or 2 for business-y first-impression meetings in Boston that make you feel great (it's East Coast, after all!). But don't be afraid to mourn what you miss. It's a necessary thing. Throughout the several big changes of place, culture and situation I've gone through during my 20s, it's always helped me to realize that even if I had stayed in a certain phase/place, everything/one around me would have changed. Have a great July resting up, and then knock 'em dead!

Krista said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm sure my culture shock isn't as great as yours, but I remember returning from my semester abroad and feeling like I just didn't fit in. Wishing I could go back and knowing it would never be the same anyway because the people were all gone too.

And congrats on med school. I guess I knew before this where you were going, but it's fun to read about the process!