The dust of arrival having settled, I'm able to look around more now. Coming back from SE Asia has been altogether a much gentler experience than coming back from Uganda, probably due to a number of factors including age (hopefully a bit more mature now) and degree of culture shock experienced (from a rural village in Uganda to a semi-urban setting in Lao). I've happily landed in a funky, convenient house in the Seward neighborhood, easy bike ride and walk away from all sorts of cool places. I've landed as well in a great job, where I get to interact with a diverse set of adults in a shabby, friendly school in NE Minneapolis. I'm reconnecting with old friends, and forging brave new friendships with people who very much reflect my values and interests. I came home at the right time for me.
Some things are harder to adjust to. I've found that many people in my circles have moved onto a slightly different stage of life, whether that means a committed relationship, having kids, or simply a more focused outlook or approach to life. In some ways, I probably have changed too. It's a big difference going from your early/mid twenties to your late twenties/early thirties, and I'd hope that that's also reflected in a more honed type of focus that better reflects my self-knowledge, outlook on life, and passions. Nevertheless, I'm finding it less than automatic to find a community here, and I can tell it'll take a lot of initiative and exploring if I want to surround myself with meaningful human connections. It'll definitely require a fair amount of risk-taking and reaching-out, the latter which isn't always a strength of mine, given my introverted tendencies.
Something else hard to adjust to has been the dichotomy between 'work' and 'life' here. Even adages such as "finding a work-life balance" freak me out because it points out the bizarre need to search for such a thing in the first place...it really reflects US society that so many of us are searching for a balance that should never be a concern in the first place. I never want to find myself in a position where my job assumes such importance that it co-opts my life and I have to actively fight against it to gain free time. Work is just another thing I do in my life, not more or less important than other activities I involve myself in, and I don't think it should assume priority over anything else, or that it has to be its own special category to resist. If work becomes so integral to who I am, then it has the potential of eating up all of my energy, so that I'm not able to reflect any light day to day, outside of it. I want my energy and love to always be reflected as I move through life, not just for certain categories. Along the same vein, I don't want to have to 'go on retreat' or holiday as a way to escape from the stresses of life in America. I want to live my values in all of my moments, on work days, on weekends, and not have to experience joy and harmony in small, explosions of retreat. I want to always have it with me. After all, I'm not what I do, I'm the specific energy that I bring to the world, and the way I move through the universe. I'm not a 40 hour work week or a task list or unread emails.
I think stripping cultural paradigms bare, like work ethic, relationships, etc, really helps me to see them for what they are, and realize that deviating from them is just to allow yourself to be a bizarre, imperfect, and loving human creature. It allows for yourself!
Love and Learning,