I’ve been home from Europe for nearly two weeks. Despite the cold virus that hit me virtually immediately, I’ve been able to go out and about to run errands and start getting life back on track. I’m amazed at how much has to be done when one returns from overseas. Every day I mark a couple items off my “To Do” list. Then I add four more.
But I am home and the past year seems like a distant memory already. The familiarity of being “home” makes the exotic nature of the past year of my life seem like a dream. Did I really ride a camel at the Giza Pyramids? Was I really draped with serpents by a snake charmer in Marrakech? Did I really do the Beatles Walking Tour in Liverpool? Did I really find my ancestors hometown and connect with unknown distant family members?
“Yes”, to all the above.
Yet I have easily slid back into my old life. I drive everywhere, something I no longer like. When I finally find a job and start looking for my own place, I will be seeking a walkable neighborhood that does not require a car ride just to get a cup of coffee or buy a pound of apples.
I’ve noticed the traffic situation has gotten perceptibly worse in Portland. I find it amazing that traffic volumes could have worsened to the degree they have in just one short year. The popularity of Portland was expressed to me by expats I met in Europe who drooled over the fact that I hailed from Oregon. If the international laity is aware of Portland, it makes sense that the freeways would be more crowded.
And I’m already frustrated of the cost of a car. I now have car insurance again. And I have to buy gas. I just bought a new battery and the car is acting up which means a trip to the mechanic. I replaced my tires. And now I think the ignition is acting up. Grrrr. In Italy I hopped on the train or the bus to go anywhere. Yes, I was also at the mercy of the transit system’s time schedule, but that is seeming like a small price to pay right now.
Not much has changed, though. I see many more subdivisions sprouting up all over. Cranes dot the Portland skyline as new office and residential buildings pop up.
And I find that my impatience is back. I want everything to happen and happen now. I had hoped that, after living in Italy for a year life is so different, the attitude of everything occurring in a manner of “aspetta” (wait) or “va bene” (it’s all good) would have become ingrained in my psyche. No such luck.
I had forgotten how expensive life is in America. Everything seems to cost so much. I spent a small fortune on internet and cell service in Italy, but everything else was reasonable. Here, coffee is three dollars. A pastry in a coffee shop, the same. I was drinking ambrosial coffee for around a dollar all over Italy. Handmade pastries were never over $1.50. An entire pizza was eight dollars. My money isn’t going as far here.
However, the economy is booming. There’s a confidence in the air everywhere I go. Even my massage therapist said he’d be surprised if I didn’t have a job by January 1. This eases my fears and fills me with excitement about participating in Portland’s success and ascension.
The leaves are changing color and I find myself constantly catching my breath as I drive around. Burgundy, gold, deep red hues jump out at me even as I cruise along the freeway. There hasn’t been much rain. The sun has been blazing gloriously on these cold, autumn days as a welcome back to my home.
And I find an unease settling in. It’s the sense that I should start accumulating and settling back into the American mindset of acquisition. Even though I eschewed that ethic a number of years ago, it still permeates the very air we breathe in this nation. I don’t like the relentless pursuit of “stuff”. I like even less the constant reminder that we are supposed to constantly consume.
I don’t subscribe to some of my old behaviors and beliefs anymore. In Europe people are so much more comfortable with so much less. I didn’t see the constant obsessions with buying and accumulating. Homes tend to be smaller and not as crammed with detritus. I realize that, in Italy, the economic crisis has not dissipated and that obviously puts a dent in shopping and accumulation. But I also visited Italy eleven times over the years before moving there and I never saw the fascination with mindless shopping.
The true test of how I’ve changed (or think I’ve changed) will occur once I secure employment and find a place to live. Will I start the nesting process and will that take me back to a mindset of comfortable consumerism? Will I shop till I drop? Buy till I die? I sincerely believe I won’t.
But I do find it disconcerting that the past year I lived has so easily been pushed to the back of my mind. I spent one evening organizing all my European videos. I would watch snippets of each video so I could name them. In doing so, I found myself waxing melancholic over the experience–and over being home.
I suppose there is a bit of a let down after such a grandiose year. It’s to be expected. I’m not unhappy being home, quite the contrary. At this point, I cannot really spend too much time looking at my videos or photos alone. Eventually I will. I have people who want to see them and it will be fun to share them. I suppose I will do so with a sense of detachment as well as involvement.
With the holidays here and my job search efforts, I am quite occupied. I’m anxious to get going on my new life so I can look back on this past year realistically and fondly. I miss Europe, but I’m back in the city I love.
For some reason, I feel I should sigh contentedly.