Since being home I am in awe of the way in which everything is different and yet everything is the same.
My flight stateside went relatively smoothly. After going out the night before my flight, getting drunk, and not sleeping at all, I was wrecked as I finally acquired my luggage from the bowels of the JFK airport. It had been over 30 hours since I slept, give or take a half hour or so on the plane. Delusional and exhausted, I turned on my good auld American mobile that I had brought to Ireland. After a minute it started to make all sorts of noises as I received a few delayed text messages from January on the day of my departure.
I felt disoriented. With my 2 suitcases, colossal carry on, and large purse, my luggage was piled up as tall as me. I aimlessly pushed my luggage cart towards the automatic glass doors, phone in hand, attempting to get in touch with my mom or brother. Exhausted and fumbling with my cellphone, I inadvertently charged full-steam ahead into an automatic door, knocking one of my suitcases to the ground, and knocking the door off of its track - immobilizing it. Feeling like Harry when he smashed into Platform 9 3/4, I felt the eyes of people around me stop to stare, including a male employee in a neon vest. Hoping I wouldn't be held accountable or worse delayed by any means, I forced a smile at him and said "Oops! That's not good!" hoping to come off as friendly, accident-prone and helpless.
"That's not good but it's damn good seeing you." he replied. Are you fucking kidding me dude? This was my first interaction with the American public after 7 months away. Welcome back Nicole! See what you've been missing!? I rolled my eyes. Without looking for my family at all, I hurriedly recovered my suitcase and bolted outside to the refuge of sweltering 85 degree heat and humidity. Reality was waiting for me: The smell and weight of the dirty air, the taxis exhaling exhaust, the gutters on the street belching smog, these sights and smells swirled around me creating an overwhelming and ghastly synergy of pollution. I felt like Pigpen from The Peanuts, as though a cloud of dirt was enveloping me. Toto, I don't think we're in Dublin anymore. Instantly sweating (holy shit it's hot on the East Coast), still exhausted, and perturbed at the douchebaggery of the average American male, I looked anxiously for my family in hopes of escaping this horrible setting to something better.
I escaped the dirt and smog of Queens and JFK to the best of my ability and made it to New Jersey (although acid rain still remains one of the Dirty Jerz's inescapable charms). What I couldn't escape was the initial disorientation and frustration that came with being "home."
Here comes the Ugly Truth again: I miss Ireland. I missed it before I even left.
When I first got home I felt like my body and soul were rejecting America and everything about it. I was tired, surly, and found to be quite obnoxious by my friends, as phrases such as "America sucks", "That's so American", and "It's not like that in Ireland" spewed out of me. I was struggling between letting go of Ireland, and getting sorted once again to American culture and my life here. I made it harder on myself and didn't attempt to sort my jet-lag for the first week or so. I was popping out of bed at half 7 or 8 everyday and my first thought would be What time is it in Dublin, and what would I be doing right now?
Additionally, I saw my bedroom with new eyes as I re-entered for the first time since January. Without even unpacking my luggage that I had lived out of for 7 months, I was shocked and repulsed to find I had SO many clothes, knick-knacks, overall way too much "stuff" that I didn't use, need, or care about. I spent my first few days home extracting belongings of mine that I now saw as useless. I think all the things I donated to charity accumulated to 6 or 7 bags worth. Being abroad made me realize you don't need all the useless shit that gets thrown in your face in America (BUY BUY BUY!). The way America transforms everything into a commodity doesn't make life easier or better - it only promotes greed and competitive conformity.
After a week of being disoriented, torn, and uncomfortable in my own home, I realized I had to surrender. The effort of everyday activities was straining and draining me when my mind was 3,000 miles away. I couldn't fight being home, I had to let go, I had to adapt (to an extent), and let life to go back to the way it was before I left. Living with my head and heart an ocean away is no way to live at all.
It has been almost 2 full weeks since my arrival stateside. Each day it gets easier and I feel more at home, but even this is bittersweet. It upsets me to go on with my life here as though I am unchanged, as though Dublin was a dream, now inconsequential to my life in the states. In reality, I think about Ireland everyday. I think about people, places, changes I see within myself, differences I notice all around me, interpretations of people and events, overall I just think in a new framework.
Freehold is not Dublin.
I need to realize I cannot compare my hometown to Dublin. If I do this, I will be depressed at some level for as long as I live here. Plus, I do enjoy being home. I enjoy driving. I enjoy and appreciate my friends and family. I find my job to be easier and I got a raise. I am anxious to get back to Rutgers, which never fails to entertain. Life is rolling along here. Call it melodramatic, hormonal, "emo", romantic -whatever- the truth is that I feel incomplete here and I don't know if that feeling will ever really go away.
"I like it in the city when two worlds collide"
I went to the city the day after I landed. I still felt immensely disoriented and tired but I hoped that going into the city would help distract me, or breathe some life into me. As Alyson and I emerged from Penn Station, I was taken aback and left breathless at the size and pace of New York. I once again felt in awe of the city and its modern majesty, a feeling which I thought had been lost, eroded over the years through many visits to Manhattan as a small child. I remember gripping my parent's hand, staring entranced at the overwhelming stature of skyscrapers. Fast forward 15 years or so to my recent excursions through Times Square in the dark hours of the early morning to rush Spring Awakening- the city had become somewhat familiar to me. Relief swept over me like a wave with the realization that the city still held an intense fascination for me.
We joined Jordan at his friend Cal's apartment in Midtown. It was a warm night and we hung out on the roof of his apartment building, incidentally only a few blocks away from the Empire State Building. It was gorgeous and dominating, looking almost close enough to touch. I felt at home and exhilarated. It made me hopeful that I could be happy here, as happy as I was abroad. The city is massive and fast, it swallows you up and I love it. I need the pace, the noise, the sprawling grids of city street, the adventure, the unexpected, the clashing cultures...I love it, and I can be happy here.
I will continue my assimilation back into my former American life. Hopefully I will eventually get up the nerve to change the time on my laptop from Dublin time to EST. I will continue to think about what I want to do after graduation, as Dublin has both provided clarity and complication to my future aspirations.