Friday, December 18, 2015

A Feeling of Lostness

(Photo taken in Florence, Italy)

Recently, I've been feeling a strange sense of lostness. A little less than a week ago, I returned to California after spending a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. The adjustment seemed easy enough: I've been spending time with family, running errands, reading and writing, doing Christmas shopping and catching up with a few friends back home. It feels as though I never left in the first place.

While reuniting with home, though, I also observed changes. My brother's voice seems to have gotten deeper, the big oak tree in our front yard looks a little more daunting and the color of my house is a much darker green than I remember. It's likely that all of these changes are illusions and my mind is just playing tricks on me, but still, slight differences are representative of lost time.

I've been noticing these changes elsewhere in my town, like the "CLEARANCE" sections in Barnes & Noble where I used to sit and read for hours on end in middle and high school; the bookstore is shutting down after being open for 21 years, and Anthropologie is expanding and taking over their place. Amongst all of this change, I've found myself somewhat lost in space. Of course I'm happy to be back in America where In-N-Out burgers exist and Costco is less than a few miles away, but something is missing. It's like a huge chunk of time has been torn out of the timeline of my life and now I cannot seem to fit myself back into reality. I came home, only to realize that home does not stop living and breathing without me.

I guess this feeling of lostness can be attributed to reverse culture shock, but it's not the culture that is shocking to me. What shocks me is how quickly I seem to have adjusted to extreme changes in my life. Over the course of a semester, my relationships changed, my view of people changed, even the way I perceived the world changed, from someone who was once an idealistic dreamer to someone who is now pretty much a hardcore realist. Now that I'm back home, Florence seems so out of place, so unnatural in the natural order of things. Maybe that's why I've been having such a hard time explaining my experience abroad to those who ask me. Did it really happen? Or was it all just a dream?

Maybe I would be less lost if I had more time to say goodbye. I took my last final less than 18 hours before I had to move out of my apartment and leave for the airport; all of us were in similar situations, where we were given no time to process our departure, or the fact that we'd probably never see some of our Florence friends again. There was no time for us to make sense of the dreamlike state we'd been living in for the past semester. All I felt was this overwhelming sense of lostness and loneliness as I left a place that I called home for the past 4 months.

As I sit in my room writing this post, trying to process everything that's happened, I wonder if humans have to develop this extreme adaptability, or if they are just born with the ability to persevere. I guess the most natural thing for all of us is to keep living, even when nothing is the same. If there is one important life lesson that I learned while studying abroad, it's that all good things must come to an end. Everything is transient, even the people you love, even you.