Reverse Culture Shock & Moving Forward

Everyone always says that the hardest part about going abroad is coming home.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to being back in America.  At first, it was WEIRD.  It’s the little things about your own culture that are the oddest, the things you only notice when you’ve been away for a long time.  Used to everyone speaking different languages and a wide variety of accents, I found myself wondering why everyone sounded the same.  American accents are so bland!  Also, accustomed to the reserve of most Europeans, I found the open friendliness of Americans strange.  “Why are all of these people being so nice?” I wondered.  “I don’t even know them!” Continue reading

Writing into the Unknown

In general, I’m the kind of person that, once I know what I want, pursues it wholeheartedly.  I see my destination and nothing stands in my way.  Perfection is an impossibility and failure is inevitable–bearing this in mind, I push forward towards my goals.  This mindset has led to participating in the Minnesota State Speech tournament in high school, becoming part of Program Staff at camp, spending a semester studying abroad, and graduating college with top grades.  Once I know what I want, I form a strategy.  Step by step, I find a way.

But what happens when I don’t know what I want?

How do I push forward if I don’t know the direction?  People from all sides, from family members to strangers, are bombarding me with questions.  “Where are you going, Amelia?  How will you get there?”

To the world, I must look incredibly foolish.  Here I am, a twenty-something college grad living at home with no notion of where I actually want to go in life.  To cope with the unknown, I’ve resigned to taking things one step at a time.  I take the opportunities before me and hope that they lead me where I’m supposed to go.

A lot of my perspective on my future has to do with my faith.  I feel like God is deliberately keeping me in the dark.  I know that He has a plan for my life that is better than anything I can come up with on my own.  I want to pursue that.  When it comes down to it, I DO know what I want out of life.  I want my purpose and reason for living to be for God.  I have inklings of what I think He wants me to do.  I feel like God wants me to return to Europe–it’s always there, nagging at the back of my mind.  I also feel like God wants me to write.  But what does that look like?  Where in Europe should I go?  What should I do there?  How will I get there?  What should I write?

How do I pursue the unarticulated passions of my spirit and meet social expectations?  How do I balance blind faith with the pressures of stepping into full-fledged adulthood?  How do I move forward if I don’t know what I want?

I’m making this up one step at a time.  I’ve got two jobs right now.  Both will be done by Christmas.  Once Christmas has passed, I’m attending Urbana, the largest student missions conference in the world.  After that… Who knows?  Maybe, at the conference, my passions will finally be articulated and I’ll have a clear path.  Maybe I’ll find a missions organization to partner with and be on my way to wherever I’m supposed to go.  Maybe nothing will happen at all and I’ll find a full-time job and move to the cities.

I hate, hate, hate appearing foolish.  I hate the disapproval that comes from not having it figured out.  I hate that I know my extended family has conversations about what a hopeless floater I am behind my back.  The other day, my mom said something to me to the effect of, “Amelia, it’s really hard on us to see you like this.”  To which I responded, “It’s hard for you?  Try being stuck here.”

I know there will come a time when the pieces will align.  I know that I’ll end up somewhere.  Some days, I’m really positive and optimistic about the future.  Today isn’t really one of those days.  Moving forward is hard when I don’t know when I want to go.  For the time being, I suppose all I really can do is ignore the pressure and step blindly in a direction.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this post that I don’t have answers to.  But they’re questions that need to be asked.  These things need to be articulated.  In an earlier paragraph, I stated that I feel like God wants me to write.  What does He want me to write about?  My answer: THIS.  I need to put my frustrations into words.  Maybe, as the unknowns solidify into nouns and verbs, I’ll find that my passions are finally articulated.  Maybe, through the act of writing, my destination will present itself.  I’ll continue to write until I find out.

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Senior Sem Eve

Tomorrow is senior sem day.

I’ll put on a fancy outfit, stand in front of my peers, and present the work I’ve spent the entire semester crafting.  It’s been a long haul–weekends in the library, getting more interlibrary loans than I know what to do with, hours tucked away in the cozy corners of campus reading.

It’s all been building up to this moment.  And, tomorrow, it will all be over.  (Well.  Not entirely.  My paper isn’t due until Monday and it still needs polishing.)

For the most part, I feel great.  I’ve been pushing myself hard and the work is definitely paying off.  My points are all gathered, the words are there, all that is left is the delivery.  I am ready.

Despite overall feelings of confidence, last night I kept having weird dreams.  I’d be standing in front of all my professors and classmates, about to begin my presentation, and something would go wrong.  In the first dream, I looked down at my script and found that I had accidentally printed it on transparent overhead sheets.  The words blended together on the see-through background and I couldn’t present.  In the second, I was on a desert island that had something to do with Egypt.  I had to sit through all my classmates’ presentations and then, right when I was about to go, one of my professors got up and decided that it was time to present HIS work.  So I was shoved to the side and forced to find my way home.  Things got weird from there.  I remember standing on the beach trying to find a boat and this little girl came up to me.  She wanted my shoes.  But then, I looked down, and found I was barefoot.  My shoes were also lost.  Then, a random lady came up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and started speaking to me vigorously in Spanish.  I did the best I could with the little of the language I remember from high school, but it kept getting it mixed up with French.  It was strange, to say the least.

It’s amazing how the subconscious latches to big events in our lives, even when we feel prepared for them.

Still.  Today is dedicated to practicing and tomorrow, my senior seminar will be almost over.  I’ll march proudly forth from the Humanities Lounge, get myself a treat from Higbees, and soak in the last classes of my education career.  And it will be WONDERFUL.

P.S. I creeped on one of my classmates in the library this afternoon and learned that they haven’t even started their presentation.  Which makes me feel even more confident!

What do these things have in common?

Here’s a question for you.

What do Ryan from the office

http://lifeintheoffice.com/wp-content/images/characters/Ryan.png

Maps of England

http://www.oldmap.co.uk/images/historical-map.jpg

My older brother

and Beowulf have in common?

http://gentlyhewstone.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/beowulf1.jpg

They all showed up in my dream last night.  You know your English major is getting to you when you recite Old English to fictional characters and family while unconscious.

Hazy brilliant thoughts

You know those thoughts you get when you wake up in the middle of the night?  The hazy, not fully conscious thoughts that float in and out of your mind?  In the moments between sleep, waking, and sleep again, the brain invents all sorts of brilliance.  At the time, you feel like it’s the stuff great novels are made of, novels that would make Virginia Woolf or James Joyce proud.

Occasionally, your barely conscious self has enough sense to grab a pen and scribble down your mental masterpiece before it sets sail upon the ocean of your subconscious.  A few days later, you stumble upon the post-it note where it made its home on the floor of your bedroom.

It reads: “There are holes in the floor of her bathroom.”

That’s when you give yourself a massive facepalm and wonder why you even bother.