I landed in America last Thursday, and my days have been a whirlwind of visiting people I love. I've cried so many times that I've lost count about the thousands of little moments I missed out on while I was gone, and it's surreal to try to prepare myself mentally for packing up and leaving for six more months.
I have a million things swirling around in my head now that I'm back. Although America is familiar in every way, it still feels a little... off. There's English everywhere, and not all of my friends are teachers. People have their own cars, and apartments have more than one room; no one but me holds up a peace sign in pictures. I feel like I dreamt Korea, like I came up with this elaborate story of a great adventure, then I woke up without having done it. When I drive down 71 and instinctually take the right exits, I feel like I never left. But then someone asks me a question about life as an expat, and I hear my own voice giving very specific answers. I drive past a Taco Bell at every exit, and my memory flashes to the time Kelsey and I walked for half an hour in the middle of the night to get to Taco Bell from Haebangchon. I realize that no one around me has any idea where Haebangchon is, and I struggle to connect with the person I was a year ago so I can be the person my friends all still think I am.
I tried to describe it to Rosie like this: it's as if I went back to my parents' house and discovered my favorite childhood blanket. It smells just right, it feels just right, but when I stretch it out to cover myself up, I discover it no longer reaches my toes. It's not that the blanket changed and is somehow less adequate than it was before; it's simply that I don't fit it the way I used to. I'm different now - not better, just different - and I don't quite fit the way I did before. I don't know what to do with that.
I thought I would stop this blog when I got back, but I'm finding that I want to cling to it just a little longer. It helps me remember in my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged state that Korea wasn't just a dream. It's funny how I feel just as much an outsider now in the place I grew up as I ever did in a foreign country.
Perhaps if I could get more than four hours of sleep at a time, I wouldn't be such an emotional wreck. Yeah, I'll blame it on the lack of sleep.