I have one week left of my time in South Africa.
I spent my first week or 2 here crying, feeling so homesick, aching to come home. Then week 3, there was a transition. Something changed, shifted in my brain, almost as if something had permanently remodeled so that I am no longer able to think the same way. Now I feel I will have a hard time coming back.
I think the thing I struggle with here, is that I am in, and not of. I have worked every day with now 4 different tribes of people, with 4 different languages, and me struggling through understanding their culture and trying to communicate effectively in the things that are not said. I have been so touched by the people here, so humbled by their experiences and stoicism…Despite this, I am definitely still an outsider. So many times I have wanted to take a child into my arms, to hold them in their loneliness…I have wanted to reach across the huge cultural lengths with my adult patients and tell them that deep down, despite our experiences, we are the same…But I am definitely still an outsider. And honestly, I am still much more comfortable in my own cultural setting…It is hard to see so much pain, concurrently so much beauty, to want to reach in, and to still be so distanced.
At the same time, I feel that something in me has shifted and I don’t know that I will still be “of” home when I get back. I now feel removed from my home culture. And I am just anticipating not adjusting well to being home, not fitting back in. And part of that doesn’t make sense to me. There are people at home that I love and miss and why wouldn’t that itself be something to make me fit back in, to feel back at home?
I feel between two worlds, not fitting in either, and it feels lonely.
I struggle with the concept of “home.” There was college and starting to feel at home there, starting to develop a community and friends. And then I moved to Detroit very quickly. Same thing in Detroit, struggled to fit in, find a place of belonging in a really temporary job where you are constantly re-learning, switching things up, and never getting into a groove anywhere…And started to develop community there and feel at home, feel passionate about the location and my integration there, and then felt called to San Diego.
I was really excited about San Diego, especially as I grew to love it and develop community. And I had more of a constant group of coworkers and work situations (although of course, I pick a dual specialty which causes more switch ups and making it harder to feel at home). That said, I bought a home, it was exciting to develop community, to love the place of San diego, to love the work I am doing, to love to feel integrated into the world around me. Exciting to think I could stay there after residency if I got a job…That I wouldn’t have to necessarily relocate and throw up my whole world again. Finally, was starting to feel at “home.” After years of writing about this concept, trying to understand it, I felt the potential of having it.
And now I am in this strange limbo. Being changed, being different, having seen, having felt, and I wonder how much I will be able to feel “home” anywhere.
Perhaps all this is a bit dramatic, but I am definitely struggling with the tug of being in a weird place emotionally.
What keeps going through my head are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Cinematic Orchestra (enough that I am afraid I am going to get tired of the song). "There is a place I call home...There is a place that I'm no longer alone."