“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention, which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”
―T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
When I was preparing to leave the States last winter, I started googling quotes about travel. Searching for reassurance, wisdom and mostly just inspiration for a name to this blog, I stumbled upon this quote. In this paragraph, T.S. Eliot somehow managed to encapsulate my fear of leaving Georgetown for a semester. I suppose it could also be summarized less eloquently as FOMO. But it was more than just a fear of missing out, it was a fear that I would come back and find things so changed that I would once again be forced to adapt: leading to two culture shocks for the price of one.
But now, after over a week of having returned, I have a new fear:
I wonder if I have changed.
Watching myself slip into the simple summer life, it feels as though I never left and nothing has changed. As comforting as it is, I feel dissatisfied. My enamored delight wans with each spoonful of peanut butter along with my excitement over the things I missed, the things I always had taken for granted. I start slipping up more in Farsi, as important English words are rapidly returning. It is amazing how fast the language leaves, along with the reality of the experience.
And it’s frustrating because I want this trip to mean something.
The people. The rapidly changing cluster of friendships forged in a week, only to be gone in another. The mountains. The experience must be more than just “my time abroad”.
Or maybe I just feel this pressure to have a life-changing experience abroad. Perhaps it is something that signifies my return to Georgetown and the high-achieving lifestyle it encourages or maybe it is more of a discontent with how easy it is to return to my previous routine.
My privileged life becomes ordinary.
Is that the essence of reverse culture shock?
It has been almost three weeks now since my return and slowly I am finding changes:
-The end of the free truffle era at Godiva
-Cracks in relationships I hadn’t noticed before
-New stores: others vanished
-People following newly discovered interests
The changes are subtle, but slowly I’m learning where to look. Maybe in a day, a month or even a year I might even be able to look at myself and figure out how I have grown since going abroad and figure out its role in my narrative.