I’ve been back in the United States for about a week, and I’ve spent most of that time trying to “re-acclimate” myself to being here. The common phrase for this discomfort is “reverse culture shock,” but what it actually entails varies from person to person.
This isn’t my first time experiencing reverse culture shock, as my year abroad wasn’t the first time I’ve lived out of the US for an extended period of time. I think any trip abroad takes some readjustment when you come back — jet lag is the most noticeable cause of feeling out of sorts, I suppose — but coming back after living in Brighton in 2008 and after living in Manchester just this year were very different from shorter trips abroad.
I’ve been putting off writing this post because I know there is no way that a few paragraphs will be able to encompass everything I want to say about my year living in Manchester.
I came to this city looking for absolution, or at the very least something that would give my life meaning once again. Whether that something would be football or my master’s program I really didn’t know or care — all I wanted was a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Have I found it? Not really, but I don’t say that negatively. Over the course of the past year, I’ve learned there is no one thing that will make my life worth living. The older I get, the more I start to understand that I have to look inward for that purpose, that motivation, that meaning. I have to believe not only that there is a reason for me to get up in the morning, but that the uncertainty and the doubt that often plague me are okay.
It’s been over 5 months now, so not only am I almost halfway into the second semester, but I’m also almost halfway through my year-long master’s program here at the University of Manchester.
I haven’t done the best job documenting my time here, preferring to tweet inane comments about the weather, about football, about drinking cheap Pinot Grigio by the bottle. It’s hard for me to believe that by this time in Brighton, I was preparing to leave in a month, whereas in Manchester I still have so much to do.
It’s been almost two months since I wrote in this blog. It’s also just 2 days shy of the 3-month anniversary of my arrival in Manchester. If my life were an hourglass, the grains of sand would be falling faster than the rain that’s been pounding against my window and the pavements this past hellish week of late autumn.
I’ve found it hard to write anything lately, which is why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve thought of so much to say — about my friends, about my classmates, about football, about my course. I’ve wanted to write about all the minutiae of daily life. I’ve wanted to write about my research, my ideas, my hopes for the future. Yes, I’ve begun to hope again that there is a meaningful future, certainly a miracle. When I felt that I’d be resigned to uncertainty forever, I regained some sense of purpose. I just find it hard to articulate any of it.
I’m here. I’m safe and sound.
I know how much I’ve wished that I had kept a better record of my previous experiences abroad, but I can’t bring myself to write down a detailed account of what I’ve done with myself since I arrived, tearful and semi-delirious, on Thursday.
It was a long, long journey. I mean, I don’t have to say this in a figurative sense because it’s actually true. I travelled, then travelled some more, then travelled some more, and by the time I set down in Manchester airport, I was too tired to be excited. Going over to England this time didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t jittery with excitement on the plane. I was dreading two layovers and uncomfortable during the majority of my three flights. I found it impossible to sleep not because I was so amped, but because I couldn’t physically find a way to sleep despite my eyelids weighing a hundred pounds. Not surprising, then, that even on the coach to the university, I was more interested in getting to my room as quickly as possible than observing my surroundings and marvelling at the fact that I was finally back in England, where I’ve dreamt of being for so long.