Somehow it has been three months since I returned to the US and I haven’t updated my blog once. I think it has taken me this long to be able to find the words to describe the varying emotions and experiences involved in packing up my life (AGAIN), returning to Arizona, and starting my masters program.
Leaving Japan was hard. Even though I knew (and still know) that it was the right choice for me, it was hard to say goodbye to the life I had built and all the connections I had made with the people in my community there. I feel like I have been constantly on the move between communities for most of my life. I’m starting to wonder if it might be nice to settle for a while and make some real long-term connections with people, but I don’t see that as a possibility for a few years at least. I’m worn out from having to make new friends and find a new community of people every few years.
Part of what was so exhausting about this move is knowing that this, too, is a temporary stop. After my two years in Japan, I only plan to stay in Flagstaff for two more years until I finish my MA. I will be in one physical location for a longer period of time once I start my PhD program (wherever that will be), but even that will be temporary. I suppose I’m just not sure how much in life ISN’T temporary. Is it even possible to set down roots and have a permanent connection to people or a place?
It was also difficult leaving Japan to come back to Arizona, which was never my plan. I am glad to have the opportunity to study here, and to be back near my family for a time, but I still sometimes have a hard time with having turned down Edinburgh and Trinity. This program will allow me to fill in the some of the gaps in my education and help me develop skills necessary for a PhD program, and I think in the long-run this will be the best choice for me, but it’s still hard when I get to thinking about where I could be, especially when the move was so challenging in the first place.
Reverse culture shock is real, and it’s been a challenge adjusting to life back in the US, especially in a place where I used to have connections but am now starting over in. It is incredibly isolating to have to learn how to negotiate my own culture again. It’s a long process, but it’s happening.
Every month that passes leaves me feeling more adjusted to my new life, and also lets me see how not adjusted I was the month before. When I left Japan I was having a hard time with connecting to people, and certainly some of that has carried over into my time here. Even though it’s been a challenge I do really enjoy the literature program and the research I’ve been doing. After taking so long to make a choice about a career path, it’s been incredibly validating to find so much enjoyment in the study of literature. I love my literature courses, my research projects, and the potential I see for myself in this field. Even if I feel like I’m making a fool of myself 90% of the time, I’m having a good time doing it. It’s stressful, terrifying, and overwhelming, but it’s just so damn interesting.
I have so many memories in Flagstaff, and sometimes it can be hard reconciling my memories with the life I am living here now. As an undergrad I had many different groups of people in my life and was active in many different departments on campus. As a grad student I am fully committed to the English department, and as the weird kid who lived in Japan it can be a little difficult to feel connected. I’ve been questioning reality and existence a lot, but that’s not anything new. I’m 25 now and making my life work on my own. I’ve had groups of people to rely on in all of my past endeavors, and it feels like now for the first time I am completely on my own. That being said, I am grateful for my officemates and the people in my cohort who have taken time to talk to me and help me out when I’m struggling.
My life is heading off in a very different direction than it was when I started this blog, but I think I would like to keep blogging. Obviously while I am still “Annamarie” I am no longer “Abroad,” and so I have been toying with the idea of changing this blog a bit so it is still relevant instead of making a new blog altogether. I have so little time to devote to blogging between teaching, grad school, and my part-time job at Jimmy Johns, but blogging has been a help to me in the past and I don’t want to give it up.
I’m not sure what form my grad school blog will take, but now that I’ve gotten the “I’m back in the States” post out of the way I have the freedom to figure it out. This life is new, but I’m still me, still weird, still unstable, and still only tenuously connected to reality most of the time. I’m sure I’ll have something to say.
If you were following this blog only for travel posts and updates and don’t want updates from my life in grad school, now would be the ideal time to unfollow. Thank you for sharing in my adventures in Japan. Those two years were an incredible experience, and I’m glad to have some sort of record of my time there in this blog. I’m also so grateful for all the people who supported me and followed my time abroad with attentive ears. Thanks for being cool.