It was not so very long ago that I felt in control of my life, a competent young professional optimistically working through mysteries and questions while seeking the future as though it held nothing but sincere smiles and firm handshakes and home. If you had asked me then, I would have told you something both modest and reasonably hedged against life's unpredictability, but the way I felt was invincible. I had come through enormous difficulties in my first year or two of life in the inaka, and felt that finally I'd established a good reputation as a hard worker, a helper, a friend, a role model with a fun little off-the-wall streak, a genuine person always seeking to lift people up. I'd not only conquered a terrible long bout of illness, but I'd also regained much of my physical strength and endurance. Finally it seemed there were people who were as comfortable around me as I was around them, and I felt like I belonged-- that with just a bit of companionship I would be happy to go on living and working there forever.
Cruel intervention of contracts and timelines! Yet like the tide, of course, it inevitably came, so what I had been and done was washed away; and though I felt deserved pride in my accomplishments and knew that there were some who would remember them and me, I also knew that for all the world there remained no trace of my ever having lived there.
Sometimes I fancy my spirit returns to the mountain roads or to the harbor--perhaps it is caught there-- quietly observing the ebb and flow of the sea, the to and fro of the people in the streets, and the passing of the seasons while my body sits ten thousand miles away trying to make sense of new conditions. This brings with it overpowering loneliness.
I wonder about my sanity. I wonder too, sometimes, if I've wandered onto the wrong set, and no one has a script. And now the story is interrupted, the curtain's crashed, the program's frozen, and no matter what I try to do I can't move. My hopes and dreams seem to be losing the battle against inertia.
There, you see. You tried to change, to grow. You tried to fit in somewhere new. But nothing ever changes. Here you are again. Don't you know this is all there is for you?
As a rule my mind recoils against such pessimistic, downward-dragging drivel and determines to redouble its efforts, or it recognizes the signs of reverse culture shock and seeks a distraction.
Reverse culture shock. All the ex-JETs I've spoken with have said something like, "Oh, it definitely took me at least six months" or "one year" or even "three years" to work through it and feel like a normal person again. Why?!? I didn't turn into a different person just because I was living in a different culture. But apparently it strikes everyone who spends significant amounts of time abroad. I suppose less-developed aspects of personality and intellect are exerted, grow stronger, and then are superfluous or even harmful upon return to the home country.
It's going to be a process, that much is clear. I refuse to give in to pessimism, defeatism, weakness, or whining. I must. I know, though, that I also should cut myself a little slack and stop trying to force things to work when, for all I know, they may be terrible for me in the long run. What is needed now is prayer, and patience.