I’ve been back in Texas for about a month now. The closest comparison I can find to coming home is when you put on a pair of jeans that used to fit but now are just a little too tight. You wiggle around a bit, suck your breath in, and finally get them on but it’s not the fit it used to be. You make do but it will never fit like it used to. That’s what life if like for me in the States. Some of my Indian habits are still sticking around. I still want to go turn on the hot water heater so I can have a warm shower. Fruits and vegetables don’t taste right to me after years of eating them fresh and in season. And as much as I complained about how hot the church I went to was during the hot season I miss the simplicity that it offered to me. Somehow I arrived during one of the coldest springs in my memory and I’ve been freezing ever since I got home, my body can’t seem to adjust to the cold after too long spent in a tropical climate.
Sometimes it seems like my time in India was just a dream, like a story that I read and filed away in my memories. And other days I can close my eyes and perfectly retrace the steps I took through Anchor Home every day and still picture the streets of India I called home. I miss the kids so much it hurts some days and I feel guilty for everything I left behind that was unfinished. And I’m having to remind myself that I could have spent the rest of my life there and there would still be things unfinished as that’s just a part of life. Some things on our to-do lists will never be completely finished and I’m learning to be okay with that.
I’m struggling with readjusting to the ways things are done in America. I’m still discovering parts of culture here that I had either purposefully ignored in the past 3 years or just plain missed out on. I learned what it meant to “be woke” and am having to wade through the current political climate and figure out what’s actually going on and what role I need to play. I’m also rediscovering things that I enjoy doing. For most of the past 3 years I lived in crisis mode. There was always something going wrong- both big and small. There was always a sick child, or a child who needed surgery, or we were understaffed, or there was a fight over rice, or we have no power. There was always something going on and I never really relaxed. Even during my time off I was still connected and took phone calls about issues going on. I’m finding it hard to have so much free time on my hands and I want to savor it as much as possible and get over the guilt of having the free time. I’m finding it harder and I have to be purposefully about reconnecting to things I love to do such as reading books or lingering over the newspaper with a cup of coffee in a quiet house.
I’m learning how to define myself without the context of what I did in India. I always tried to keep God at the center of my work in India and not make it about anything else but doing his will. But that’s difficult to do and I slipped often. For 3 years I was Colleen who worked with orphans in India with special needs. And now I’m Colleen who is going to graduate school. That’s a big role shift that I’m having to learn to be okay with while redefining some external parts of my identity. I’m serving the same God in the States that I served in India and what I’m doing now is no less important then what I did there. But I’m slowly processing through what I experienced over the past 3 years and figuring out how to tell my story and teasing out the experiences and lessons that I want to carry with me into the next chapter of my life.
Recently I was talking with a friend who has also recently returned to the States. And she said something to the essence that she wasn’t okay but felt okay not being okay. And right now I’m okay with not always being okay. Sometimes the most random things still hurt, like seeing a Pizza Hut and being reminded of some evenings spent with the kids at the Pizza Hut in India. Or certain smells or songs that remind me of the home I left behind. And that has been the hardest thing, leaving behind a home that was full of memories, people, and places that I had come to love.
So for right now I’m still slowly trying to gather all my thoughts and “renter” into life in the States. I’m getting everything in order to start graduate school in August and slowly reconnecting with the people, places, and memories that I love here. I remember very vividly my last week in India stopping and thinking that this part of my life was firmly closing. Even if I returned to India to visit or even long tern someday things would never be exactly the way they were when I left. I’ve had to grieve for this fact and then finish out that chapter in my life so I could start writing a new one. It’s been hard and difficult but I know this is where God wants me to be. I grieve for the people I left behind in India though. The decision to go to India wasn’t nearly as difficult as the decision to leave. But I’m slowly trying to remake my home here in Texas even if the jeans don’t quite fit right.