The first warm wave of humidity hit even as I entered the airport. It was like walking into a wall. And as I made my way through the airport, looking at the people around me, it all seemed so familiar, and yet so foreign.
I remember it the way I remember significant events in my life: by reliving every moment over and over again in my head until I feel confident enough that I’m not likely to forget them. It was the day I went against all my principles and accepted that I couldn’t control everything. It was the day I learned to let go of something I had clung to so desperately, and embrace something new. It was the day I felt hope renewed, hope that things would not be as bad as I feared, that somewhere in all this upheaval, I would find my silver lining.
It was the day I came back to this country. This day, one year ago.
Blessing. Curse. Accomplishment. Waste. The past ten months — and I say ‘ten’ because my first two months back here seem to be from a different time and place in and of themselves — have been blurred with all these conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I took small pride in the fact that I had made it here, with a job I loved and hopes for a new beginning. On the other hand, the circumstances surrounding my job left me wondering how much it was all worth, if it was worth anything, if I was worth anything, because God knows I’ve had my self-worth questioned, both professionally and personally. There was the urge, the need, to pack up and leave all over again for a new start in a new place, because by June it already appeared that there was absolutely nothing left to keep me here. But then there was that little chain around my heart, refusing to let it go because of the one true friend I had here, who had become my lifeline and the only one who could talk me in from the ledge when I had hit rock bottom.
But it’s time for me to get out of the wading pool. As I try to steer my life towards a direction that could be the making of me, and put this broken heart that I had failed to take care of (yet again) back together, I realize that no matter what people might tell me, I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t have time on my side, because I’m more alone now than I’ve ever been in my life, and I need to get my priorities together so that I don’t waste this second year the way I did stumbling through the first.
Do I miss Buffalo, all the places and people I came to know and love during my four and a half years in the U.S.? Of course, especially when something triggers a memory of it, like the mere smell of Ikea, which reminds me of Home Depot. Do I miss the life I had during those years? In retrospect, not so much — because it was a life plagued by constant worries about the next step I had to take to secure the kind of life I wanted there, worries about what I would be forced to do if my plans fell through and my options became ever fewer, worries about how I would have to learn to let go of what I had come to think of as the only kind of life I could live. The feelings of missing and yearning for that life again have now turned into something else: a memory that, although greatly cherished, needs to be put away every now and then when the pain of it returns; and of course, the feeling of being grateful for being given the memory in the first place.