As of December 21, I have been back in the United States for one year. One year–this is something that seems impossible. For the longest time my return home has seemed such a recent affair. “A few months” has seemed the best descriptor. How could so much time have passed?
I meant to write about my return last year, but I was jet lagged. Then, I was busy. There was always something that seemed to come up. I found myself not recording this monumental event in my life, and regretting it. So, here is how my return went.
After a hectic exit, a 15 hour flight and a 15 hour wait at Chicago O’Hare airport, I am off to a hotel. My flight was cancelled twice. One more night away from home.
I arrive at the hotel a half hour before my parents are due to pick me up in Detroit. I have no cell phone, no US currency, and the hotel is charging for wifi–in other words, I have no way to call home, since I cannot pay for an internet connection. I explain my situation and get the fee waived. (Thank you, Crowne Plaza!) Then, a beautiful night’s sleep before flying home the next day.
On December 22, 2011 I finally reach home. Driving through the hometown I have not seen in 2 and a half years is surreal. Things I did not expect to change have, others have not. Most things are exactly the same. After a long absence, it is almost more jarring to find things as you left them than not. Things went on exactly the same without you. It is humbling.
Month three: Adjusting is hard. I am still accidentally speaking Japanese to people on occasion. It probably sounds put on, but it just happens sometimes. I still bow occasionally, too. There is just something that feels right about bowing. It's embarrassing, but I did live in Japan for a long time. This is probably more normal than I realize–at least, I hope so.
Month nine: Where did the summer go? It still feels like I just returned. Yet, at the same time, my life there feels like a distant dream or some parallel life lived. Pictures of Japan have this pull on me. Sometimes I ache to return.
Now: I knew this day was coming up for some time, but it did not feel real. My life in Japan was certainly not perfect, but I had some priceless memories. A piece of my heart will always be there.