Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Standing Still

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There was a night last fall when I found myself with colleagues standing in the middle of the Red Square at around 11:00 pm and all I could think about was going back to the hotel and sleeping. The next week I was in Rome standing in front of the Colliseum with a similiar thought. I was standing in the midst of some of the most historic places in the world and I was no longer thrilled. I was just tired. And that is when I knew I needed a break.

With this in mind, I took some actions that put forth a chain of events that caused me to move "home" to  Boston in late October. This has been just about the longest time I've been home in the US in 9 years.

I've been back in the US for almost 3 months now. And for the first time in a very long time, this International Woman of Mystery is standing still. Completely still. And I'm freaking out.*

And this stillness is making me crazy. I thought that standing still would be good for me, that taking a moment out of the jet-set madness that was my life would help me figure out who I am, what I'm doing and what I want to do next. I thought that moving back to the US would give me some answers as to what I want my life to be. I thought that stopping the non-stop travel and the long hours and the crazy work, would give me some perspective. I thought that maybe living in the place where I'm from and stopping the constant work-related travel would make it easier to meet men and form better friendships. I thought that for the first time in a long time, I could establish a routine and stick to it. I thought that standing still would be good for me, and in many ways it probably has been... But it has not been easy. I didn't think it would be easy.

But I didn't think it would be this hard.

At first it was exciting. It was like moving to a new country but with old familiarity. And there was all the logistics of finding a place, starting the job, getting settled. And that at least kept me very busy.  Now that the craziness of the move is over, and I've had time to take stock of my new world, it's suddenly starting to hit me. This is my life.

This is it. And it's lonely. There were days in the not so recent past that I would have killed for a few free seconds, for a three week period where I didn't have to fly somewhere, for a work day that started at 9 and ended at 6, for a day where people weren't lining up at my desk to ask me questions or get my advice, for a day when  I didn't have 9 hours of meetings scheduled.

And now I have time. Lots of time. Too much time. Too much time to be lonely. To think about the people I miss. Too much time to think. Too much time to realize that unfortunately, moving home didn't make me happy. Nor has it helped me to feel better about my life or about myself. Instead, I feel even more lost. I miss my friends. I miss living abroad. I miss my old job. I miss the travel. I miss the bustle and the flow and crazy pace of life. I miss being an expert at what I did. I miss having a team of people to manage. I miss being part of a different culture. I miss being different. I miss being international. I miss being a foreigner. I miss exploring and discovering new cities. I miss the excitement of new adventures around every corner. I miss the difficulty. I miss taking the path less take over the well-traveled and comfortable road. I miss the challenge.

I'm having trouble defining myself in this new world that is my life. The ways that I defined myself before - as an International person, as a hard-working person, as a well-liked and respected person at work who encouraged a lively office social scene. Those are now gone. I'm no longer international. I'm no longer working very hard. I'm no longer very important at my job. I no longer have a very big network. Some days I feel invisible. As if there is nothing tying me to this world right now. As if I could just float away, disappear and no one would notice.

At least when I was living abroad, even when things were not going well or I was feeling down, I always felt that I was doing cool/interesting/glamorous things. Being an American living abroad made me feel special. I was doing something different. Taking the road less traveled. And sometimes that thought alone was enough to get me through the day. 

But back home here, I no longer feel special. I mostly just feel invisible and lost. I feel underwhelmed and under-challenged. I was so used to life being a constant adventure. One long rollar coaster of crazy events in crazy places. And of course, I'm not going to lie, I sometimes wanted to get off. I definitely was curious to see what it would be like to stand on steady ground. And I'm glad I got to find out. But I really miss the excitement of the ride. More than I ever thought I would.

And when I lived abroad, when things got hard, I always told myself, well you can always "move home." And although I knew that moving home would be hard too, it always stood out in my mind as some kind of solution. Some kind of problem solver. Some kind of destination. Some kind of change that I could make that when I reached the end of all else, going home would be what was left and that would be ok.

But now I am home. And suddenly I realize that "home" is no longer home. And I feel like a foreigner in my own country. And I wonder where is "home?" And what is my next move? Where do I belong?

I don't regret moving back. I know it's what I needed at the time. I needed to stand still if for nothing else than to appreciate the ride when I get back on it. But I can already feel it... That same familiar feeling that has haunted me all these years -  my feet are getting restless and my heart is yearning for travel and adventure. I wonder how long I will actually stay here in Boston. I wonder what my next adventure will be. I wonder if things will get better here. Or if I will be off again too soon to find out.

I knew it would be hard. But I didn't ever think it would be this hard...

*I've been trying to write this blog post for almost 2 months now, but have been struggling to get it to try to convey the emotions that I'm feeling - I'm still not there but I wanted to post this before I took off for my first trip abroad since moving back. Weather permitting, I'm off on Thursday to London/Stockholm. The trip is bringing to head a lot of emotions and questions and fear and excitement and confusion. Since I've moved home, I've been struggling with the question - where do I belong? And where is home, if "home" no longer feels like home? And what do I do next? 


Average Girl said...

I think this trip will be good for you Ms. J., perhaps, it will bring you that clarity of exactly how you wish to live your life, how you wish your life to define you, and what makes you the happiest... Whatever it is sweetie, I really hope you find it, you deserve it my friend. Have a safe, wonderful, exciting, amazing trip. Can't wait to hear it when you come back!

PS thanks for the info on the stretch... I appreciate that!

Cheers darlin

Sarah B said...

Reminded me of the Jewel song...


There is no journey, no experience that leaves us learning less -- we may feel lost, but in the middle of our struggle to find something, we are also gaining ground.

You are feeling a bit lost at sea, not anchored by your normal identifiers, and swept around trying to grab onto things that might fit, might work, might help. Being lost is a good thing. Being confused, sad, scared, frustrated -- these are good. Why? Because no sailor ever learned to handle adversity while sailing in smooth seas.

You are breaking yourself apart and rebuilding. I know, I've been there. I broke myself wide open and felt thoroughly adrift as if I didn't even recognize who I was anymore. The face in the mirror was a stranger. Different circumstances, same feelings.

I came out on the other side, the same but changed. You will too. Keep searching, keep grasping, keep mulling this over. Just acknowledge the feelings, accept them, and release them.

Keep us posted... :)

myjoyproject said...

A beautiful post. I think you managed to convey quite well how you are feeling.


PS.. I gave you a wee shout out today on my blog, stop by if you want to see one of your dating ideas "in action" umm sort of....

Sadiemaa said...

I feel your pain. I think that moving overseas is like opening Pandora's box. Once you have done it home is no longer one place but where ever you are a bit of home is where you last were. There is not a day that goes by when I don't think about leaving America again for all the same reasons that you mentioned. But as soon as I do then I think about all the people and opportunities that America has and who I would miss. It is a tricky balance.

Lifebeginsat30ty said...

Oh you know how much I understand this one! It's like once you make that move to be an international person, you become 'international'. you are no longer American and yet you will never be british/swedish/european/whatever. Reading through this entire post, I'd say your heart lies overseas? You like the challenge, you like the adventure, and you like exploring (hm, this sounds like me!). but you'd also like to have a plan and some security (you know, like a boyfriend). This I get! Whatever you decide, I'd say that moving back to America doesn't have to be a permanent thing either. but give yourself a good 6 months to settle in as well. I'd say it takes at least that long to no only get the physical moving done, but also for your head to catch up! See you soon ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh no. Wanderlust has hit, huh? I totally understand how moving home was a comfort when things went badly abroad and now that things in the US aren't going the way you want them to...there is no fail safe. I am sorry it hasn't been what you expected but since you are so awesome there is always opportunities for you to travel again...work abroad again...and won't that be quite an adventure.
Nothing is set in stone in your life. You can always make changes if needed. I just want to see you flourishing! :-)

mille feuille said...

I can relate to how you feel. I've done that back and forth a lot with home always being the solution in the back of my mind. I often ask myself where is home? It doesn't have to be where we grow up or spent most of our life. Someone once told me that home is where your heart is and that I should figure out where that is.

You're not alone. Hopefully it will pass.

International Woman of Mystery said...

Thanks everyone. Really nice comments and good advice. It's it's really nice that so many of you can relate to what I'm going through. It is a lonely process.

I think what Sadiemaa said is really true. Traveling is like opening Pandora's box. It really is. Things will never look the same. There will always be something you are missing. As if you left a part of you somewhere and you always miss that part. Or as she said: Once you have done it home is no longer one place but where ever you are a bit of home is where you last were.

Sarah B - great Jewel song! I will have to look that one up.

Lifebeginat30 - you understand. We will talk more Friday!

My joy project - thanks for the shout out!

This trip will be interesting. I will for sure keep you posted!

Catherine said...

I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling. I don't have much advice, because honestly, I've never really had a home. My father was in the military and we just travelled around my entire life, so nothing feels very permament. And, I'm getting bored with the place I live now, but I'm too afraid to leave because my family and friends are all here. I love them and I have learned to rely on their support.
Anyway... I just wanted to write to tell you that you are special. Very special and wonderful. No matter if you are in London or in Boston - there is no getting past that you are a special lady. That's all I got :)