so what is it like to move back to the States after 6 years of living and teaching abroad?
it’s basically wonderful. but that may be because i moved ‘back’ to the greatest city on Earth.
for me, this is the first time i’ve lived alone (no significant other, no roommates) in the US. it’s the first time i’ve lived in the US without debt (college loans paid off, no credit card debt). it’s the first time i bought new furniture that’s actually pretty nice, and that i intend to keep for the foreseeable future.
on the trickier side of things, it’s the first time i’ve lived in New York City; the first city i’ve moved to in the US alone; and my first time teaching in a private school in the US.
some things are lonely. compared to the international school bubble where work=play and colleagues are automatically the people you hang out with all the time, people here have their own lives, some in faraway neighborhoods across the river with backyards. they have things to do and people to go home to at the end of the day. (and so might you, eventually). it’s not as easy to make an instant friend just by speaking the same language; there’s none of that desperate and clingy sense of connection when you find someone from the same region of the US as you.
i could say that some people might feel a sort of lack of magic upon moving home. especially compared to living in Buenos Aires, a city of streetlit cobblestones and mournful accordions, life in the US can feel less poetic. the mail system actually functions; you can read your full rental contract; every sign and billboard is explicit and annoying instead of being a puzzling linguistic mystery. when you overhear strangers’ conversations, it’s no longer a secret thrill, now, it’s just mundane. your photos are less foreign and inspiring and people no longer spend thousands of dollars to come visit you with stars in their eyes. you no longer feel so impressive at the airport when you wait in line under ‘Residents’ at Immigration. and yet…
there is something so intensely satisfying at being back and immersed in my native culture (all the layers that apply): i feel refreshed, restored, relieved, reabsorbed; redeemed, almost. it’s so much *easier*. i know and trust the systems. i have some basis for understanding the interactions i encounter every day. i know what to expect, generally – at a bar or a grocery store or a doctor’s office. i have many fewer daily experiences of anxiety about misunderstanding. it’s fun, rather than frustrating, to unpack some cultural norm.
also: there are excellent public libraries! the subway has air conditioning! i can get amazing food from around the world or a decent $1.50 pizza slice!
and so, so happily, i am in New York, where i still encounter languages i don’t speak, people i find fascinating, and many, many layers of complex culture and history and possible ways to live.
my new job at an international school here began today, and students arrive in early September. i am so interested to meet them and to start working together.
2 thoughts on “being ‘home’”
Thanks for sharing these honest reactions. It seems like we (those of us still overseas) tend to pay more attention to the “horror” stories of repatriation, so it’s encouraging to know that the experience can be positive and invigorating. I hope you continue to love being home!
You inspired me these two last years. The way you see the life, what details you pay attention to, how you faced hard moments being so far away from your home… you are super special, Alli! You deserve every single feeling of joy inside you (I don’t know if it makes sense in English; it does in Spanish). Embrace all those “improvements “ you described and jus walk smiling through the greatest city on the Earth!!! Love you and always remember you!!!