Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I think it gets harder and harder to return to the US each time I travel long-term outside of it. I'm not really sure why. It doesn't feel like I'm running away from anything when I initially leave, it just feels like an adventure. When I come back, though, it feels like I'm being forced back into reality against my will. It's like the letdown I used to feel after Christmas vacation was over, only much, much worse.

Maybe it's that living in the US now feels too easy. Where's the challenge in living in a place where I understand all of the language being spoken around me? Where all the cultural interactions are second, or rather, first nature and require no analysis? There's some large portion of my brain that has now gotten used to being used this way, and when I'm back here, it's bored. There was a day a few months after I got back from Japan when I ended up riding the elevator at school with most of the German department, and I actually felt some measure of relief at not being able to understand every word they were saying, because it was allowing me to use that atrophying part of my brain. I do like being able to speak the language of the country I'm in, yes, but I also savor the challenge of knowing that every time I listen to someone or open my own mouth, I am improving my own language skills as I struggle to master said target language.

Maybe it's that I've been well and truly infected with wanderlust. Going to a new place promises new things to learn, new things to see, new observations to make. There is something so seductive about traveling. It's not even so much about the destination as it is about just going somewhere new. It all takes on an illusion of irreality, somewhat like life has become an interesting dream that I don't want to see the end of. Some of it is frustrating, to be sure, but in the end, it always seems to be worth it.

And then, maybe it's that I feel so many more possibilities in my life when I'm abroad, like I could reach out and grab any one of those infinite paths spread before me, and when I come back home, I feel my access to infinity dropping away. Out there, I can be anything, do anything, go anywhere. Here, I have a mold I need to slip back into, and it often chafes because the edges are no longer quite the same as they were before I left.

Will the mold re-form me back to what I was, or will I remake the mold?

Right now, it seems like it would just be easier if I could hop another plane and be on my way again, except this time, it really would be escaping. It doesn't help that I have a halfway serious job offer in China. Not enough to make me not want to get my MAs, because those will make me imminently more employable, but the offer is so... tantalizing.

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