Saturday, October 22: This Saturday morning in late October, a walk in the woods. It’s been Indian summer and the leaves have been slow to change. Things feel muted, quiet, not jubilant, not exciting. Dull, quiet, intractable.
Last October, I was excited to be back home in Virginia after my year in China. I looked forward to spending more time with my family. Now, a year later, I’ve lost my enthusiasm. I came home hoping to spend time with my kids, but alas, they are growing up, slowly, and growing away. I came home to spend time with Mike, but alas, he is working long hours and on weekends doesn’t have the level of energy or wanderlust I have.
Last year, Mike and I went to Chincoteague for my birthday, October 25, and to Antietam for our anniversary on November 13, but this year he’s been inundated with work and we are combining my birthday and our anniversary by going the first weekend in November to Fayetteville, West Virginia to see the supposedly beautiful Babcock State Park and the New River Gorge. We had a wonderful time in Iceland and we renovated our house this year. All of these things I should be happy about. I am pleased about these things, but it’s not enough. Something is missing — a sense of purpose, a sense of moving forward, a sense that I’m not bogged down in stagnation. A sense of love, belonging, acceptance.
I look around me at an America that is teetering on the edge. I fear that instead of progressing in our values, we’re going backwards. I’m afraid that the upcoming election could be the start of regressing to 1950 or before. I look around me and see nearly half of all my fellow countrymen full of hatred and fear and anger. I am uneasy and anxious.
I am carefully considering whether go abroad again. When I go abroad, I meet people of all nationalities who are generally more open-minded than many Americans. I learn that most people are not that much different than I am. I learn that though cultures may vary, people are the same. They want justice, fairness, love and success. They want opportunity and acceptance for who they are. They want to participate in the wealth the world has to offer. They don’t want to be struggling to put food on the table. They want to be happy.
No matter how much I try to escape it, the old reverse culture shock is kicking in. I’ve talked about this phenomenon before, upon returning home from abroad, that uncomfortable and disoriented feeling you get when you don’t quite fit back into your own country after spending an extended amount of time abroad. Though at first I was happy to be back, that old feeling is creeping in. I try to shake it off, to ignore it. I’ve tried to assimilate, to melt back into America. But I can’t quite do it. I feel acutely the need to escape. Wanderlust is like a genie dancing before me, enticing me back out into the world at large.
I need a purpose. I need adventure. I need to have like-minded, progressive people around me. I have been waiting until our disgraceful election is over, then I’ll be making my decision. Leave or stay?
This October has been the worst one I’ve ever had, as far as my outlook, my mood. Usually, I love the fall. I love the freedom, the change that is promised with cool crisp air and the bright burst of color in the leaves. But this year, I just feel trapped, bogged down, frustrated.
I don’t have a complaint about the people in my family except that their lives go on without much understanding of how I feel. Maybe it’s because I try to put a smile on my face and pretend I’m fitting in. But inside, I don’t really feel that.
I think whatever feelings you have in life, they’re bound to rear their heads and make themselves known. No matter how much you try to put a lid on them, to deny them, they sit percolating beneath the surface. I just love it (not!) when well-intentioned people say, Get a job! Get a hobby! I have tried to find a job to no avail, and I occupy myself with writing (my blog, a memoir), daily walks, and cooking. These are solitary pursuits. I need to get out and interact with people and have a purpose and an adventure. I don’t want to volunteer my time at this point in my life, as I have experience to offer that I should get paid for! My hobbies — travel, writing, photography — all call out to me. They’re intertwined, my three loves, and they’re beckoning me, as a package. I find it dull doing one without the others.
I’m lucky to have a good husband who will support my dreams. He will support them, but of course he really doesn’t want me to go. This means I’ll feel guilty, as if I’m abandoning him. I feel bad that he might be lonely while I’m away. But he has his hobbies too, and he can do them perfectly well without me: biking, watching sports, and of course, work; though it’s not a hobby, it’s a time-consuming activity nonetheless.
I’m reading a cute Swedish book, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. In the book, 59-year-old Ove is informed at work that they are “retiring the older generation.” Suddenly, he’s not a person, but a “generation!” Ove is a curmudgeon, that’s for sure. But he speaks some truth when he thinks, later in the book, “This was a world where one became outdated before one’s time was up.”
I’ve talked to many people of my generation who are not seen, not heard. I want to be seen as a person who can contribute, not a burden, not a has-been! I often think back to the disheartening time when I faithfully applied for 250 jobs, every day for a year, only to never hear anything back. At that time I had just completed my Master’s degree at age 52. Now, though I haphazardly apply for jobs, my heart isn’t into going through all that hassle for no return! Especially now that I’m 61. I have the best chance of finding something abroad, although I know I’ve aged out in many places. But at least I know I have a better chance of finding a job in some far-flung place than in the “land of opportunity!”
I’m waiting. After November 9, I’ll decide whether to begin a search in earnest either here or abroad. I’m not ready to call it quits yet.
You can find my previous post from 2013 about this trail at: a weekend of indian summer & work, & a little walk in nature.