Coming Home: Surviving Culture Shock In Your Native Land

[Editor’s Note: I hope you guys will welcome Lindsey to The 818. She’s someone Scott and I both go way back with (Scott to birth, while Lindsey and I met early in High School). She’s on of those rare people in our lives whose relationship with each of us pre-dates our relationship together. And last year after she married Mike, who also happens to be one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet, the two of them laughed in the face of settling down and went backpacking across the other side of the globe. Kind of bad ass, right? Lindsey has long been my touch stone, so it’s no wonder that this post of hers resonated so deeply with me. There’s something to be said for having the world as your oyster, even when you feel like you have no business sitting at the raw bar in the first place. Okay, I’ve stopped making sense. Listen to Lindsey instead. -m-]

IMG_0028When I was 25, a wise woman of 29 told me a tale of how she freed herself from the golden handcuffs of the producer’s track in Hollywood in order to pursue her real dream: screenwriting. And at 29 years old, she was making it. She had traded in promotions and expense accounts for temp work and time to write and was finally in the rooms of production companies all over town, across the table from executives, pitching her ideas to studios and at that moment she was standing in front of me with a beer and a smile and I wanted to jump out of my body and into hers. She had everything I wanted and I remember thinking that if I quit my producer’s track job right then and there, I could make it to that same benchmark. I could be a 29 year old active screenwriter and put my expensive college degree to use, finally. 

Cappadocia Couple

Two months later I fell in love with an old friend visiting Los Angeles. A year later, I did quit that job…and then moved to New Jersey. I left the business, I moved in with my boyfriend, and I got a job in Manhattan that was simply that: a job. We settled down in a cute apartment in Brooklyn and bought wine glasses and paint. My late twenties flew by in a blur of subway rides and weddings, happy hours and spin classes, and by 30 I was engaged to that old friend. We were creating a story together and already had begun to outline the next few chapters. When would we start trying for baby? How far did we want our kids spaced apart? Did we want two or three? And where the fuck would we raise these imaginary kids in New York City?

Shortly after answering only one of those questions (when), I started to get itchy. On my usual route to work one morning I was suddenly caught by a single flower in bloom. It was May in New York City. It was fucking spring! But I was still walking to work with my head down, hands in my pocket, still trying to outrun winter. It dawned on me that I was missing spring, my favorite season. If I could miss what was right before me what else was I missing? And that’s when it came. 

I texted Mike: “What if we don’t have kids next year and travel for a year?” 

ontheroad

And on August 11, 2013 we set out for an 8 month trip around the globe. We saw 20 countries spanning four continents that included two months in Europe, a road trip around Turkey, three weeks in Morocco, two months in India, Christmas in Nepal, Tibet in January, two months around Southeast Asia and three weeks split over Australia and New Zealand. It has now been a little over two weeks since being back on American soil and still I find myself spinning. Even though we ended our trip with a few weeks in rural New Zealand, nothing prepared us for the re-entry back into The United States of America and California to boot. A trip to the grocery store inspires paralysis. Trying to compose an outfit provokes panic. Looking so forward to tap water only to be offered even better water- cold, filtered water with ice or lemon or cucumber (because this is California). To have a choice in water, a choice of bread, bread that’s not really bread, pickles in my sandwich, fifty styles of jeans, five paved lanes of highway, TAMPONS!! And not only tampons, but tampons with applicators or scented or organic or whatever the hell! The choices I am presented with here at home every day are amazing and humbling, comical and depressing, fucked up and completely free. 

Burma Market

I am changed and yet not. I am hyper sensitive, observing, judging and yet breathing back into the ease of it all. I am enjoying becoming a part of my brother’s wedding party while also trying to reconcile the cost of a bridesmaid dress that I know could change the course of the life of that young Tibetan refugee we met in Northern India. I am paying $50 to fill up on gas in the SUV I am borrowing and turning on air conditioning and turning up music to tune out of my head, to try to lift myself out of this sinking feeling that all is actually not right in the world. We are no longer traveling and yet we are still bumping up against the highs and lows that experiencing contrasting cultures evokes.  In Cambodia we left the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh visibly shaken and the next day we enjoyed a cocktail on the 72 second floor of a Singapore high rise. We searched endlessly for trash cans in India (victorious when we found one!) only to watch our hotel empty their trash onto the street right out front.

bangkok

We drank beers with Tibetans in the freezing cold hours after seeing Mt. Everest only to be interrupted by an impromptu and fear-raising visit by the Chinese police checking to make sure we were in the guesthouse sited on our papers at our last checkpoint. We got sunburns on the beaches of Nha Trang and the next day had our minds blown In Ho Chi Minh City after looking at the faces of not one, not two, but three generations of families disfigured, still suffering the effects of Agent Orange from the Vietnam War. I am here in the San Fernando Valley eating a taco while the homeless man a few feet away from me pulls cans out of the garbage and I think to myself, where should I put my soda can when I finish it?

My husband and I have created a secret between us that only we will every truly get. We find ourselves avoiding talking about the trip because let’s be honest, who wants to hear a couple say things like Was that in Morocco or Turkey?  Or When we were in Vietnam…

Cambodia

We are more grateful than ever to be American and yet so disappointed in so much. And then there is that nasty gnawing trick of time. The trip is now over. We are no longer world-travelers conquering the globe. We are now just unemployed 30 somethings living in the spare bedroom of my dad’s condo. We are back home and yet we are still all over the globe. We have turned that page and all that is before us is “. . .”

We scan job lists and career pages and classifieds and I find the same decision before me, the gleam of the golden handcuffs making me squint. For someone who just trekked around the entire globe, there is an incredible amount of fear present right now. I am plagued by the “what ifs.”  What if I can’t find a job? What if we wait too long to have a baby? What if I make the wrong choice? And then I remember that my “what ifs” are a privilege. 

Tibet

I am not a 29 year old screenwriter. I’m a 32 year old at a precipice. I still want to know how old everyone around me is. I still want to feel better about my choices by looking at the outcomes of others. I still struggle to measure myself against my own yardstick. But I no longer want to jump into someone else’s body. I want to be right here in this weird space standing on my own two tired feet welcoming all of the anxiety and fear that come with so many options before me. I have finally arrived, here at adulthood, with seemingly nothing but a grand secret with my husband and a new kind of blur ahead. But it’s spring time in the Valley and the flowers are in bloom.  

New Zealand[To see more photos from their adventure, follow Lindsey’s Instagram or visit Mike’s photo website.]

 

Feed Me Seymour