Thursday, September 18, 2008

The ups and downs of re-entry

You've probably noticed that my blogging has become even more rare since I got back from China.  Sorry!  You would think that I would be getting better at blogging, because now when I check my friends' blogs and they haven't blogged in more than 24 hours I'm always tempted to send them a guilt email telling them how they should blog more so I can hear about Shiyan.  But I don't.  Too often.

Anyhoo, tonight's topic is re-entry.  I spent 3 years in China.  The last two years were consecutive.  Coming home has been great and terrible, all wrapped up into one immensely confusing whirlwind.  It's been an incredible roller coaster ride, up one minute, down literally the very next minute.  It's really hard to explain unless you've been through it, like most things in life.  I've been reading a lot of different materials on re-entry and they've done a great job of putting things I'm feeling and experiencing into words, so I wanted to share some of those words just to give an idea.  Here are some excerpts from the book Burn-Up or Splash Down: Surviving the culture shock of re-entry, a book by Marion Knell.

The words most commonly used by people describing their feelings on re-entry are loss, grief, bereavement, depression, and loneliness.  

When asked the question "What was your biggest joy upon return?" I received these responses: "There was nothing joyful about it."  "It wasn't joy, it wasn't home.  I hated it."  "No idea - it wasn't joyful.  The chance to do something new?"

When asked the question "What was the best part about coming back?" I received these responses:  "Getting reconnected with family."  "Twenty-four-hour electricity and hot running water."  "Catching up with friends."  "Anonymity."

(compare the wording of the questions and the tone of the answers)

One of the greatest problems people face on re-entry is that they believe they are alone in feeling like this... Consequently, they often hide their feelings and retreat into themselves.

Some sources of stress: differences in culture, loss of self esteem due to changes, loss of identity, emotional instability due to grief or loneliness, inadequacy of appropriate clothing, lack of a home, lack of a job or appropriate skills, availability of people who can relate to the experience, unmet needs due to false expectations, alienation, etc.

One returnee put it this way: "People said, 'It must be so nice to be home,' when I hadn't really thought where home is."  Another said: "We look out of our window or drive around these suburbs and see the never-ending houses with their neat little gardens and the cars parked outside, which are all a little different, but to us all somehow merge into one. We could be anywhere, and while everyone else is connected to this world, it is going to take some time for us to adjust."

Anyhoo, those are just a few random excerpts.  I'm trying to avoid typing out the whole book.  So what's the point of all this?  I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me or anything, I'm just trying to let you know where I've been the last two months.  I've been experiencing all the things described in those excerpts.  Today is September 18.  I've been living out of a suitcase since July 10.  I'm extremely thankful for Jennifer and Matthew for letting me stay with them all this time.  And to Vail and Katy, too.  Although Vail has tried to kick me out a time or two. :)  But living out of a suitcase gets old.  Looking for a job got old, even though I didn't even look that much.  Mainly because I had no earthly idea where to start.  There was a point where I was afraid to go out because I would have to talk to people and I felt like I had lost all my social skills and couldn't imagine how I would interact with them.  Like I said, it's been a crazy two months.

So where am I now?  Day to day, I feel much better than I did even two weeks ago.  I've got a job at a place called Trophy House that's really fun and pays enough.  I'll let you figure out what we do there on your own.  I'm still living with Jennifer and Matthew, but they've admitted that they don't mind and we're even moving into a bigger place where I'll have my own room with a door.  (27 more days!)  I'm slowly making friends, thanks to my friend Beth introducing me to some great people at Granny White C of C, and meeting people at work.  I have a car that (sort of) works and gets me where I need to be.  Things seem great and good.  Grood.  Yet there's still the random feelings of loneliness, depression, and frustration.  It's all a normal part of re-entry, I guess.  But like I said, I feel much better than I did even two weeks ago.

I want to thank all my faithful friends who've been loyal to my blog and have offered me so much encouragement over the years.  I'll try and improve as I continue to get back into the groove of things here.  Now I'm off to bed so I can get up and make some trophies for a cricket tournament.  Whoopee!


preacherman said...

Wonderful post.
Keep up the great work.
I will be visiting as often as possible.
I hope you have fantastic week!

John Dobbs said...