Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Journey Home - The Halfway Mark

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said 'Here art thou!'

The question and the cry 'Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance 'I am!'

From "Journey Home" by Rabindranath Tagore

It's been nearly two years since I found myself with the gut-wrenching decision of whether or not to leave family and friends and resettle on the far side of the globe. Now, as I sit at home in Wisconsin after living in India for 18 months, I am unsure of what to say: Have the last 18 months gone by quickly or slowly? Both, I guess. It feels like only a few months ago that I was tossing and turning at the prospect of moving to India for three years. Conversely, it seems ages ago that I was drowning out the sound of the monsoon with music in attempt to soothe my homesickness. In fact, the adjustment period of my life in India feels so distant that I've nearly forgotten about it. I'm amazed at how much I have experienced and accomplished in the last two years, yet I am equally grounded by the overwhelming sense of stability and security that I feel despite my travelin' and transitory life.

How can I sum up my thoughts of being at the halfway mark? Well, first, I'll say that the world seems smaller. This seems an odd statement when I recall how tiny I feel when looking across the endless span of the Great Himalaya, or how my list of places to travel has only gotten longer despite all the adventuring I've done. Yet, it has become increasingly easier for me to float between two seemingly disparate worlds. In the most accessible sense, globalization now allows me to enjoy masala chai at an unassuming truck stop in Baldwin, while an afternoon stroll through the Mussoorie bazaar often grants me a glimpse of the Sven and Oles bumper sticker proudly bumbling down the mountain road. However, my sentiments have grown deeper to reflect my new understanding of calling two incredibly different places home. My homesickness is now multiplied; who would have thought that my much anticipated trip home after 18 months would greet me with homesickness for India?

I am learning that homesickness or, more broadly, yearning for what is not immediately accessible will forever be a part of my life. I will always wish that a crystal clear lake in the northwoods were available for a paddle, or for spending a lazy Saturday night at home with my parents and the voice of Garrison Keillor. For an empty drawing studio in Dittmann with Andrew Bird blaring late at night, or a long walk around the chukkar with views of the snow peaks and bellies full of greasy Chardukan bun omelets. My life is rich with so many wonderful people and places that it will be continually impossible to be in the presence of them all at once. I am learning how to appreciate them from afar.

The next 18 months seem like they will go quickly, but maybe I will be surprised and they won't. I can't predict how I will feel, but I do know that the second half of my contract will perhaps be even more challenging than the first. Not with my work, but with the questions of when to leave and how to say goodbyes to a place that has become home. I find comfort in the stories of others who successfully inhabit homes in many corners of the globe, weaving their way seamlessly through places. They add new threads to their rich textile while preserving the memories, stories, and faces of the familiar ones. I hope the same becomes true for me.


k said...

Nan, you are such a wonderful person and a great friend. I'm so glad that other people have the same questions and confusion that I do and that we can figure it out together.


p.s. i'm the creeper from farkawn, mizoram... I chose that so I wouldn't get confused about who looked at my blog. :)


Nicole Suzanne Farley said...

Mmmm...thanks for sharing, Nan! Great to hear your heart. :) It was so SO great to see you the other day, thanks for taking the time!!! love you!

Bill K. said...

Nan, your thoughts parallel those of others who have lived at Woodstock, whether as teachers or students. It is a magical place that ingratiates itself quickly into sensitive hearts.
The great thing about living in these days is how easy it is to maintain connections with people and places. Enjoy your time at "home" in the USA and be refreshed when you return. Blesings!