As the new school year starts, I’ve started to feel the unwelcome pangs of nostalgia again. It’s got me scrolling through old photos and presentations; looking out the window and sighing wistfully as I imagine an orange-tree filled plaza far away. What’s the hardest part of moving on? Is it the leaving or the remembering?
When I moved back to the US – fitting all of my stuff miraculously into the two suitcases I left with – the adjustment was expectedly a little tough. I was stuck by how big and excessive everything was here: enormous vehicles, sprawling yards, excessively large menus.. even the money seemed awkwardly oversized. I’d say it took me a solid three weeks to ease back in and during that time I found myself more critical of my homeland and its culture; I felt distanced, even isolated, from the way of life and priorities that I had grown up with.
These are classic reverse culture shock symptoms – the loss belonging to one place and one culture and the gain of a greater sense of awareness. It’s normal and I’d even say it’s good thing, but it takes time to accept.
Sometimes it is easy to envision my two homes as extreme opposites, picturing Virginia as a desolate wasteland of culture and joy, meanwhile Spain shines untarnished in white and gold. This seems particularly clear as I commute nearly four hours into the city, mindlessly riding the metro like a little cog in a machine.
Be honest – where would you rather be?
I look out the black window as the metro holds yet again and think – did I make the right decision?
Nostalgia is heartily fed by its good friend Disillusionment, everyone’s most hated constant companion. I mean, it’s hard to go from smelling orange blossoms outside your bedroom and listening to flamenco music in the streets to dead-eyed strangers brushing against you on public transportation while you shuffle to your 9 to 5. My actual D.C. life is far from the glamorous one I had imagined when I decided to move back – I don’t have my own apartment, I’m not discovering all the cool bars or art exhibits every weekend, I’m tired at the end of the day and happily plop in bed around 9:30 (I know, my Spanish alter ego would be appalled).
The remembering is hard.
But, of course, the reality is not nearly as stark as my imagination. Nostalgia conveniently forgets about my Spanish frustrations and trials, money troubles and frigid apartment. Adjusting to my life in Córdoba was hard, too.
Sometimes I long for my home in Spain. But the point of returning to the US wasn’t to discover cool bars and art exhibits, it was to see my family again. To explore another city. To start a new adventure.
I know we can rarely make decisions knowing that it’s the right one, and as much as that fact disturbs me, I’m trying to get over it. We have to take the good and bad experiences and the lovely memories, hug them, slip them in your pocket and keep going on.
So next week when I get onto the metro, I’ll play some Joaquin Sabina and stop sighing.
I think it’ll work out in the end.