Well, I’ve been home for almost six weeks. My room is a perfect picture of chaos: three large suitcases and a backpack take up the majority of the space, and their contents spill out and mix with the mess I left upon leaving the country. Every time someone comes over and sees this, they comment on the fact that it has been so long and I still haven’t unpacked. I’m sure they think either I like living in a pigsty or I’m lazy, and I have to admit at least the latter half of their assumption is accurate. I do unpack here and there; one vacuum seal bag is empty. I transfer clothes to the closet or dresser as I wear and wash them. Both rolls of dark chocolate digestives have made their way out of my suitcase and into our bellies.
I feel as though the last few years of my life have been primarily consumed by packing and unpacking.
My life right now is in a state of limbo. This is the first fall I have not been in school since I was four years old, and I am looking for a temporary job only until June. Why unpack and settle in when I’m going to have to pack everything back up in nine months? Maybe that seems like a silly question.
Does no one else see the symbolism of my unwillingness to unpack? To put away my suitcases is to put away the best experience of my life. To walk into my house and see everything the same, minus a few new knick-knacks and pairs of shoes–well, what makes that different from any other year? This is the same reason I refuse to go back to my previous place of work. For if I do, it’s to pretend that nothing changed. I may look the same on the outside, but I’m not inside. I know that must be practically invisible to everyone but me, and so I cling to this physical, outward expression: the open suitcase, waiting to be zipped up and whisked away on the next great adventure.
There’s symbolism in the fact that my new things won’t fit with the old. I have already carted several bagfuls to Goodwill, and will continue to do so. Striving for the perfect balance. Or maybe just balance, period.
I have been offered help in unpacking, and I do appreciate it. But what may be hard for you to understand is that I’m still getting used to seeing you so often. It’s not that I don’t want to–please don’t ever think that, not even for a second. I’m an extrovert, so this phenomenon is new to me. The idea that sometimes I just need to be alone, and that in this room of chaos I am most at peace. This will change. It will be slow at first, but soon you will forget that I even said this. That I even felt this way. And maybe I will, too.
A year is a long time.
I didn’t think I was experiencing reverse culture shock, but I guess that’s because I didn’t really know what it was. I thought the old foods I loved would be too much for me, or that I’d forget how to drive. It’s not that at all–it’s a shock to the heart.
So I will continue unpacking, but I hope to never be completely unpacked.