Readjustment Phase Two–Where is Home?

In July I posted about discovering what home means to me – the place where you become yourself. As I feel the second phase of my readjustment kicking in, I no longer know where my home is.

I was looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends as part of my COS experience. However, everyone remembers me as the girl who left in 2011. I’m radically different from that girl. I don’t feel like I can be myself anymore because everyone is expecting me to be the old me. I’m caught in between this limbo of being my new self and faking my old self. As my best friend said “Peace Corps sent back a very zen person.” I was not that way when I left. I don’t know how to interact with old friends anymore. I don’t know how to connect. I feel like there is something missing in the middle, and that’s time. I’ve been gone for two years. I haven’t seen some people for ever longer. How do I be the same friend when I’m a different person? I struggle with every conversation to not monopolize the discussion and blabber on about Peace Corps. I’m genuinely curious about what everyone else has been up to, but most people don’t have two years worth of incredibly crazy stories to tell. How do I be myself?

Home. I’m back in America. But I’m not home. I don’t know where I consider home anymore, I can’t be myself and I don’t feel connected to any specific place. My mom’s house was cozy and nice, but it didn’t feel like home. The area and way of life seemed so alien that I could hardly connect to it. San Diego was fantastic, but it’s my best friend’s home. I was just visiting. I could be myself with her, I felt the most at ease during that week. I was so excited to return to Oklahoma. I grew up here. I have such fond memories of life in this house, but it isn’t my home anymore. It is scary how un-homelike it feels.

There were a few things that finally severed ties for me with this house. After just one hour, I knew this place was no longer my home. First, my dog didn’t recognize me. And he still doesn’t. That’s been one of the hardest aspects of coming back so far. I couldn’t wait to be reunited and dogs are supposed to have such great memories of their owners. He doesn’t even come when I call him. It’s almost as if he is scared of me. He loves everyone else though. It breaks my heart everyday to watch it.
Then, as I entered my room I felt disorientated. There was no carpet, just the concrete slab. My bed was there, but my mattress was gone. During my service I slept on a terrible mattress. It was made of “high density” foam with no springs. It was very soft and had completely molded to my body, which really means I made a giant butt imprint in it. It was so bad that I couldn’t roll over at night, I would just roll back into the butt pit. Turning it regularly didn’t help. I hated it. I couldn’t wait to get back to Oklahoma and sleep on my mattress again. The mattress I had literally been dreaming about for two years. That mattress was one of the first things I bought post college. It’s a material thing, but when you’ve been deprived of good sleep for two years, you really want a nice place to sleep. While I was tossing and turning every night, my dad decided to claim my mattress and it’s now on his bed. I probably would have said it was okay, if he ever asked me, but he didn’t. He said he’d buy me a new one, but that doesn’t solve the problem I have right now – I want to feel comfortable in my house.
This house doesn’t feel the same. My dad’s made a lot of changes, so it doesn’t look the same or feel like the house I grew up in. It isn’t friendly anymore. It isn’t inviting. I don’t feel like I’m wanted here. I don’t even feel like a guest. As I walked through the house, I found one picture of me. And there is a frame that says family and it has everyone in it, but me. No one talks to me or asks me questions. In fact, we barely say anything at all. It’s like I don’t even exist. This is now just a place I’m crashing while I search for a job. And it breaks my heart every night and every morning. I go to bed feeling lost and disconnected. I wake up wishing I was waking up to the sound of hand brooms and goats. I’d take my crappy mattress back and early morning wake up calls. Ghana was home, this is not. But I can’t go back to Ghana. So I sit here struggling with feeling like I no longer belong anywhere.

The only way I know to cope is to continue pursuing my dreams.
This too shall pass.

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4 thoughts on “Readjustment Phase Two–Where is Home?

  1. It breaks my heart reading how difficult it is for you! The only advice I can offer comes from my own experiences. First, there’s something to be said about the saying “Home is where the heart is!!”. The place where you can be yourself, be free to love, and to feel loved will ultimately be your ‘home’. Secondly, the very reality of feeling like you don’t belong is what pushes us to new places! We can’t let ourselves become too comfortable or we will stop growing and learning!! It will be so much easier now to move to a new place that matches the new you!! It’s exciting…focus on your future!! Lastly, while family and old friends will always remain in your heart, you will make new friends and have new family to share life and make new memories! Your future is bright and I know you will continue to do big things and make a difference!! Love you!!

  2. Oh honey, I can relate to this so deeply. Feeling “at home” is far more complicated than we realise and it has so little to do with physical place. Really its about an emotional connection, and as you say a sense that you are truly yourself in that space.

    Every time I have ever travelled or lived abroad for an extended period I have the sense of being a foreigner in my own homeland. And yes, along with that there have been many friends I no longer connect with. Letting go of people you were once so close to is absolutely devastating at the time, but ultimately such a blessing in disguise. As they say, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And as we grow, the first two kinds of people disappear so that more “lifetime” people can arrive who you can be completely yourself with. My heart goes out to you in this difficult transition period, but please trust yourself when you say this too shall pass – the best is yet to come. 🙂

    Cat

  3. I remember so clearly my first few months back from the Peace Corps (in 2004). Ten years later (yes, I COS’ed 10 years ago yesterday!) I can assure you that it only gets better. I remember bouncing between my old bed in my mom’s house and my sister’s couch desperately searching for a job that gave me the same sense of satisfaction that my time in Bolivia had given me. From what I remember. I found myself automatically responding in Spanish and then awkwardly explaining to strangers what I actually meant. It got better. After six months I found that satisfying job, and can most likely attribute getting it entirely to my experience in the Peace Corps. I found a place of my own to call home with an old friend who loved to hear me talk about my Peace Corps experiences and even gifted me with a bound copy of all of the e-mails I had written home while I was gone! I started to find magic in some of the seemingly mundane happenings in my “boring” US life and to look for new challenges to keep my life interesting and fun even when I was no longer faced with the grand challenge of living in another country and culture. As you say, this, too, shall pass. And as Cat said before me, the best is yet to come.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement! Readjustment feels a lot like Peace Corps, a rollercoaster. Somedays are fantastic and I make progress and some weeks I find myself looking up plane tickets back to Ghana. My readjustment to the work world left me feeling bruised and battered. I took an easy job because it was easy, but I knew that the environment was something I no longer enjoyed. It wasn’t a smart choice. I should have listened to my own advice and pursued a fulfilling job. But, just like in Peace Corps, you just have to experience something new in order to really determine how it will impact you.
      Peace Corps had the greatest impact on me I could have ever imagined. My easy job just reinforced the lessons I learned. It also reminded me that readjustment isn’t a straight line and that I should go easy on myself when things get difficult again.

      I have found that supportive friends who want to hear my stories are by far the greatest treasure!

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