Today I have officially been home for a complete year. 365 days, come and gone.
And still, since I’ve had my feet on familiar ground, I’ve never felt more like a foreigner trying to dictate my every growing feelings of restlessness into words.
So finally, here’s my attempt… at making some coherent sense of my unsettled heart.
It is never quite easy saying goodbye. It doesn’t matter how much practive I’ve had, I’ve never been able to perfect this art.. and truthfully, I’m happy with that. It’s kept me honest and vulnerable, it’s kept me… quite frankly, me, in an ever-changing journey.
It’s kept me coming back home.
The thing about returning home though, is that you are never the same person who left.
Not with malicious intent, but, unfortunately, people will still treat you like you are, and they are normally the ones you love the most.
(But who doesn’t hold on to the past? I’m guilty of this, too.)
And that, for me, is always the hardest battle to fight when coming back.
I am not arrogant or ignorant enough to think that constructive change only happens to people who travel, well, at least not anymore. It simply isn’t, and will never be. Life has many different paths to choose from.
Personally, however, it is my favourite method of personal growth. I love the feeling of being lost in a city. I like meeting new people, and listening to different languages. Sure it can be frustrating at times, but the challenge of adapting to a new environment keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble, and I’d like to think it keeps me kind.
Because what I’ve learned is, no matter where you are in the world, no matter your mother tongue, your degree of education, what skin colour you contain, or how much money you have…
There is a universal truth that we are all trying to figure out life to the best of our ability.
It’s my personal motto — always change for the better. It’s what my tattoo symbolizes, and it’s what I want my life to reflect, too.
And so — Travel is my catalyst.
But the culture and societal standards of where I come from is not always… understanding… of how I lead my life.
I’m a 24 year old female, single, and without children. I would like to think that this is normal, and it truly is… in other countries. But in my corner of the world, it isn’t. Specifically, my state in the US.
I’m from general small town name here, Texas. Known for proper manners, big guns, conservative politics, and churches galore.
I should be happily married with 2.5 children, and have a husband/superior that works 40 hours a week and grills steak on the weekends – while I mange the kids, and worry about what scent of laundry detergent I want to be present within the confines of my household.
Okay, soooo maybe I’m exaggerating… a tad. The thing is, I have absolutely NO problem with the women and men who lead their lives in this manner. This is how we were raised, and belief is a beautiful honour.
But I truly do not care how other people live their lives, so long as they’re happy, not harming anyone, and it’s THEIR personal choice.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, reader. I’m a filthy fear-mongering feminist… guilty, send me to prison asap, as long as it’s like the prison in OITNB plz.
Truly though, I would probably classify myself as a humanist. I want people to do whatever they want that makes their heart happy, societal norms or not be damned.
Realistically though, this is not the general consensus of where I come from.
Let’s also add that I am Mexican and Vietnamese American, I am pro-choice, I understand the true historical intent of the 2nd amendment, I have a uterus, I do believe in God but not the traditional Christian one, I’m for universal healthcare and education, and that I’m gay.
I do not write these descritptions of myself to make a political statement, or argue viewpoints.
Or to throw a pity party. I’m not looking for handouts, sympathy, or conversion prayer.
I write this, to understand my personal position in the world, and how my cultural surroundings will effect how I express myself to the outside eye.
And so understand, when I come home I have to battle this all over again.
Last year coming home from Spain was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
I initially moved to Spain to heal my broken heart and discover who I am independently of a significant other. That, truthfully, was my biggest problem, and I know how privledged that sounds – for heartbreak to be the biggest ailment of my 23 year old heart, but nonetheless I cannot deny how lost as a person I had become.
And by the end of that year, I transformed into someone I was proud of again. I moved past just existence and learned how to live again. Spain was a beautiful experience, because it allowed me to shed every expectation of every single person I had known at that point in my life.
Half a world away, I had no obligation as a daughter, friend, or girlfriend. And the three major points of my life disappearned and the only obligation I had was to my heart.
I lived simply for myself.
Here, I learned the value of self-love, and this radical notion that my happiness mattered too, changed my entire outlook on life.
Before, I would have put anyone’s wants, desires, dreams, goals in front of my own. I wanted to save people, from themselves. I wanted to fix whatever emotional trauma someone had that labeled them as damaged goods, called it a “hero” complex, which I still have to remind myself not to do — truly, I thought I was being altruistic, but now I see it as a form of self-destruction.
And I know now, that I am solely responsible for my own happiness, and no one else’s.
And so when I finally came back home in the beginning of last July, I had to manuever through the obstacles of what that would mean, and how that would effect my personal relationships.
It was not easy. There were fights, and there were tears. There were offensive words, and there were broken promises. I hurt people I didn’t mean to, and I suffered my own pain.
But throughout all of it — there was love.
And that is the most transformative energy in the entire universe.
Time and time again, I relearn through different situations that love is the only thing that will save my heart.
Thus being home has simultaneously been one of the most rewarding and heart-wrenching experiences I’ve thus far had.
I came home specifically to spend time with family and friends. I know, in my soul of souls, I will never again live in West Texas for an extended amount of time. I fear missing out on the lives of my loved ones.
Being abroad, and away from home, you experience so much. You learn that the world isn’t as scary as the media portrays, that your country isn’t the best in everyone’s opinion, that cheese has many more ways of being eaten than you could have imagined – and just so much more. You grow in ways you never thought possible.
What I forgot
Is that I wasn’t the only one changing and experiencing. You see, I came home different. And instead of extending that gratitude to my loved ones — instead, in the same way that they treated me the same, I followed suit.
And sometimes, I wanted to prove so desperately that I had changed and fixed myself that I ended up hurting people I wish, now, I hadn’t.
But such is life.
I was so furious that everyone kept treating me the same, and kept placing expectations on me of how I should be. It angered me beyond reasonable logic that my family and friends couldn’t understand the mental and emotional ways that I had changed. How the golden buildings of Belgium changed my distate for gold, how Greek cuisine incorporated onions and managed to appeal to my tastebuds, how Spanish attitude for leisure time made me forget my desire to join corporate America, how the Dutch use of weed for entertainment/medical purposes eased my holier than thou southern attitude against drugs — just the ways in which my mind and been remapped.
And sometimes, it’s frustrating how no one can relate to your experiences. But I, too, was close-minded to their personal growth. And this caused a lot of unnecessary arguments and pain — but nonetheless, it happened, and I am better off for it now.
It made me realize that personal growth… is just that, personal. And I have no right to hinder someone’s attempts at becoming better — now, I only want to honour the universe that resides in each individual’s heart.
And if I assume someone hasn’t changed, I become toxic to their happiness.
So realizing too, that sometimes I’m the toxic person, has made me strive to not only always change for the better, but to always change people for their better, too.
To be the positive influence or constructive criticism they need. To try and not say anything out of a place of jealousy or negative intent, and to always try to love, encourage, and help — even if I don’t agree, or understand.
And I was only able to realize all of this, after I learned to fully love myself… no matter where in the world I was. Once I respected my heart enough to allow it to feel and love and change, I was able to extend this to others, and it has been miraculous.
I’ve learned to fiercely love people, and I’ve learned to delicately let go.
But, I still haven’t learned to say goodbye, and maybe one day I will, but for now, I’m happy with where I am.
In 3 months, I will move my life to Germany for a couple of years to begin my master’s program.
The thought of leaving is making me mentally prepare for it again, the goodbye part. But, this time I’m not running away. This time, I’m running towards my future — and that makes all the difference.
I wonder who I’ll be when I come home next time.
I pray to God it’s someone my parents are proud of, and my friends still love as loyally.