This is the third time I have tried to complete this post. I have color coordinated the entries for easier convenience. It is now 2014 and, thankfully, I am not in the same state of mind I was when I last touched this piece. I am in a better place and I do not feel quite so despondent. I will not write about the shattering event that took place at the end of September and through mid-October, nor some of the other more personal blows that continued to rain through until early December. I am reentering the world, and it seems the internet world is no less daunting than the real. More so in some ways. But, that is why I am finally publishing this weight off my chest. A post that has mocked me for months will finally see the light of the interwebs. So be kind. Please.
(Try #2) October has been one of the most difficult months of my life. A combination of reverse culture shock, loss, disappointment, exhaustion, computer troubles, sickness, feeling trapped and overwhelmed has led me to just want to run away from life. Have you ever gotten that tightness in your chest, your stomach in knots, and tears about to course down your face at the slightest provocation? That is how I feel daily. I just cannot quite seem to catch a break. If something can go wrong, it has and I am just waiting for the wheel to turn so that I can come up on the other side. I do not usually write posts that are so personal but if I do not get all of this off my chest, I feel like I will burst. I started this post a month ago and nothing has resolved, everything has only gotten worse. Here's hoping November does not frighten me quite so much as October has.
(Try #1) It starts with the little things. The air ceases to smell of sea and sand and mountain. People walk farther apart and with more care to personal space. Language suddenly becomes familiar and it is unnerving to be able to understand the surrounding conversations. Roads and shops are cleaner, more sterile. Plugging back into the Matrix with television, media, high(er)-speed internet, advertisements everywhere all forming a cacophony cocoon of white noise. Most of all, actively having to check the time because the daily Call to Prayer no longer acts as a universal grandfather clock.
(Reverse) Culture Shock crept up slowly, stealthily. It camouflaged itself in the excitement of returning to what I thought was familiar. I gorged myself on all the food previously unavailable to me (I'm looking at you, Pork Products), franchises that stoked my nostalgia (Chipotle with an ice-cold Corona), and the markedly cheaper alcohol variety. What a novelty not to have to translate every ingredient in the store and convert pesky measurements. Such a relief to no longer need a VPN to use Netflix or Hulu. I shopped, I visited, but mostly I lost myself in the stress of moving. Apartment hunting, flights, moving vans, packing: all of the millions of little tasks that add up to fill up two months. You forget to think about what you left behind when you are so concentrated on where you are going.
Then came the beginnings of unease. For the first time in my life, I actually had to furnish an entire apartment with furniture. Really think about that. I have never had to buy or own furniture in my entire life. Either my parents picked up odds and ends from wherever we happened to be for that year or four or the State Department provided the basics. Barring an odd table here or there, I just used what was already there or given to me. I had to think about matching furniture and making sure that what I bought was both with budgetary bounds (read: cheap) and of a good enough quality that it could last years. YEARS, maybe even a decade. I have boxes full of useless ticket stubs, stuffed animals, books, and clothes that I may not (definitely won't) wear again. Somehow all of those boxes hidden away in storage/symbolic-room-in-the-parental-nest seemed to weigh less than the heavy, grounding elements of a couch, two mattresses, two bed frames, five bookcases, three side tables, one coffee table, one dining table and four chairs, lamps, fancy paintings, two dressers, and one cocktail cabinet.
After that it became harder and harder to ignore feeling displaced. The portions are so big here. I forget which language to say thank you in. And most of all, the religion. In spite of having been surrounded by mosques, headscarves, and before that prayer flags, incense, temples, nothing quite matches the judgmental fervor of certain religious sects around this area. I see people standing around with signs calmly stating that I will burn in Hell.
In most other areas of the world, I am considered an outsider and therefore exempt from local religious practices. As long as I am respectful and considerate, people are pretty much content to worship or celebrate in their own way and I am welcome to participate or not as I choose. Here I find the choice removed from me. By virtue of my lifestyle and (lack of) belief I am thrust into the position of opposition rather than just an outsider minding my own morals. It is exhausting treading in this world that is so different from the exclusive-but-welcome-to-awkwardly-participate world of most other religions and cultures.
It is easy, really easy, to feel overwhelmed in a place that is both familiar and unexpectedly alien. Finding a routine that works around the frustrating closing of shops at 5PM and on Sundays. Trying to explain that my small town in Turkey had a larger population during their off-season than the entire year-round population of this "city". Finding that the wildlife population has a vendetta against humans and have concocted nightmarish creatures that sting, bite, infest, and devour unwitting victims. The South, I have found, is a daunting place.
Isolation is an issue for me. I am an extrovert to the point that I find constant proximity to people comforting. I don't necessarily need to be engaging in conversation the whole time but I do like being in an environment where I can ease in and out of interaction at will. The lack of a comprehensive and reliable public transportation system puts a damper on being able to move around in complete autonomy. You need a car to get anywhere and I resent feeling dependent on/chained to a machine. Plus, everything is so spread out, in spite of the tiny population, that walking is out of the question and the humidity removes the option of a bicycle unless you want to look like you took a shower en route.
I miss feeling weightless. From two suitcases to one to usually a backpack, for the last three years it has been so easy to drop everything and go.
Flight comes easy, it is being grounded that is so difficult for TCKs.