I was so excited when my plane landed in Phoenix after coming home from a year in Peru. I had been counting down the days until I would return to the USA on my calendar. The day I was scheduled to depart was circled with a big inked circle that said “FREEDOM!!!” Like a prisoner, I felt trapped, anxiously awaiting my release date to sweet freedom. I couldn’t wait to be free for the next phase of my life to begin. I thought I was ready.
I had held my future life back home up on a pedestal – like the ultimate prize waiting to be claimed at the end of a video game. I would have freedom, I would have my car, I’d be back with my old friends, I’d have access to my favorite foods, my normal life, and I’d fully understand the language. I’d be able to kiss my boyfriend. We’d go on real dates not involving a laptop and a spotty wifi connection.
In Peru, I had gotten used to a certain rhythm of life, a schedule, and a routine. I knew that life would be different in the dusty northern coast. I knew to expect to be challenged. I was naive about how hard it would be to return. I thought I’d just pick right back up where I left my life on pause in the United States.
Life would be perfect like a beautiful package, wrapped in shimmery paper with a beautiful bow dusted with glitter. It would be wonderful, perfect, and easy once I got to Utah.
Yet, the closest thing to that glittery package is a pair of outlandish pink glitter high heels my mom bought for me as an early birthday present bought the first week I was back in Arizona. Readjustment has been anything but. After a week in Phoenix, I hit the road in my trusty Mazda to head north to Utah.
I felt like I had been in a coma and had just woken up. I hadn’t changed, but everyone around me had. Where did a year of my life go? It went by so fast in retrospect. Surprisingly, at the same time, during the daily teaching grind, it stood still. How does time do that? Did I really spend a year teaching English in northern Peru? It already feels like a fading memory in the dreamscapes of my mind.
Progress and change had happened in my absence. Friends are engaged, divorced, married, or have had babies. Homes have been purchased, families have moved, and I’m left with nothing but memories of what was and what fit in a few Rubbermaid tubs. Going back to church in Utah and in English has been an adjustment too.
The reality of being back didn’t really hit home until I was home that I had no schedule, no plan, or direction. I have almost unlimited paths to take. I need work but where? What field? What industry? Where would I live? How would I manage family, friends, work, service, church, etc? I didn’t really consider that I would starting over from scratch. It is often overwhelming. Now, I have two temporary part-time jobs in higher education. I serve as an adjunct professor a local community college. What will happen after December after my grades are finalized?
Also, at my age, I shouldn’t be crashing with my grandmother. Yet, here I am. I hate not knowing what direction to move towards. I like progress yet I feel stuck in Confusion City. What do I do with my life? What is next? I have no clue and it is a hard pill to swallow. It’s maddening. My lush romantic dreams have now been shattered, and I lost one of my biggest supporters. Now, I’m trying to pick up those remnants along with trying to rebuild a whole new life.
Everything is a BIG decision. Even at the grocery store, I feel overwhelmed with choices. No wonder making really big decisions such as careers, relationships, or living arrangements has left me overloaded with distress.
I haven’t had a lot time to unpack my year-long experience yet. I’m still in survival mode, rushing to reacclimate and restart a comatose American life. I can’t quite explain it, but I’m having pretty severe reverse culture shock – something I never anticipated as I dreamily planned my future triumphant return back to the United States.
When I was in Peru, I was on my own in another hemisphere. It left me only one choice – to turn completely to the Lord for help. Often, as I trudged to the university, I pleaded with the Lord to help me make it through one more class, one more night, or one more lonely weekend. I can testify that there was no way I could have made it through that experience without the Lord’s frequent tender mercies. It was a blessing and a challenge. I grew so much spiritually, emotionally, and professionally, while I thankfully shrunk in weight.
However, I had a powerful epiphany since I’ve been back. I had forgotten that no matter what my mailing address was, life will be rife with challenges and trials. It also never dawned on me before I came home, but I need the Lord’s guidance and help just as much – if not more – than I did in Peru.
I may not know where I am going, but I am not lost with the Lord as my guide. I can’t stand paralyzed in fear and doubt. The future is uncertain and my heart is broken, but I know that even in my own country, life requires the Lord.