Saturday, July 19, 2003

So I just arrived home from my five week trek roundabouts Western Europe. My feelings are a jumble and a mess currently, but that probably has a lot to do with the ocean I had to cross today, and the long car ride back from New York, and the utter lack of rest of the last few weeks. I’m not complaining, mind you. Because I think I just experienced five of the most joyful, unusual and memorable weeks of my life. But at the moment, I’m a just a little mixed up.

On the one hand of course, I’m very glad to be home. I’m glad to see my dogs, and to sleep in my own bed, and to have a refrigerator with food labeled with names I can recognize. I’m glad to see my family. I’m overjoyed that my cynical jokes make sense to someone again, and that nobody thinks I’m depressed and negative just because I make them. I’m happy to see my flag waving; I’m happy to feel as if I’m on equal footing with everyone around me.

On the other hand, I’m very sad to leave Europe; and I think that I’m going to quite miss Jody over time. It’s not that I’ll never go to Europe again, and it’s certainly not that I’ll never see Jody again; but from now on, things will always be different. One of the nicest things about the entire trip was the utter lack of expectations I had. I knew about Rome, but I’d never been to Rome, so how could I say what it would be like? I’d talked to Jody before, but I’d certainly never spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week with her, so how could I say what it would be like? From now on, I’ll always have expectations: Rome is very crowded and hot; in London, they remind you to mind the gap on every single Tube stop; Jody really is that nice all of the time, and she doesn’t have to fake it or put on a false front, and in fact it’s quite contrary to her nature to do so.

Expectations aren’t bad necessarily. But I will never again be able to have the utter terror, to the point of near nervous breakdown, or so it felt, that I experienced as I boarded my very first airplane flight. It may not sound like a nice thing to be so terrified, but it was really incredibly wonderful. I felt so stupid and small and desperate; and yet I was filled with such excitement and such a spirit of general whimsy. God above could smite me in a blinding flash, at any time at all, but I was willing to wait it out, with a big stupid looking grin on my face.

On the other hand, I’m so much better educated about Europe, and the entire world, than I was before I left. There are so many issues I hadn’t been able to properly consider having never left North America. I didn’t realize that jobs were so hard to find in Europe. I didn’t realize the lengths that young people went to just to find decent work. I knew that there was a lot of immigration, but I didn’t understand that it was feasible to walk around London a whole day and never once meet a single person of English decent who was born and raised in London. I didn’t understand just how serious the EU is about uniting Europe against America; I didn’t understand how closely the economies and cultures are beginning to align. I didn’t understand that in so many places in Europe, everyone learns four languages and it seems the most natural thing in the world to them.

And I’m much better educated about myself too. For the first time in my life, I think I was really able to view myself from the perspective of a complete outsider; not just from the society around me, but from societies in general. While I wouldn’t say that my personality has changed completely, there have been some definite changes. I’m not so anxious anymore. I’m not so prone to emotionally martyr myself for someone else’s happiness. I’m more ready to stand up not only for my ideas, but also my feelings. I’ve realized on this trip that I’m not such a bad kid after all. I have some godawful habits and predilections, but I really don’t think I’m defined by them. My fundamental traits are mostly good. And I’ve had to realize that I’m a part of the humanity that I have so many romantic ideals about and so much natural respect for; no man is an island, not even me.

Adjusting to life at home will be very difficult I think. For the past few weeks, I’ve thought of no one but myself, and occasionally Jody, who’s easy to please. The politics of living at home are much more cumbersome. I neither know if I’m up to the challenge, nor if I’m really even excited about trying to be. But what I do know is that I’m really very fond of everyone in my life. Not because they’re convenient companions or because it’s advantageous for me to be with them, but because I really have a tremendous family and tremendous friends. I’m very lucky to have all of the things that I have, and I can’t shake this feeling that I have so much more in life than I deserve. So even though I'm worried about all the issues which might have cropped up while I was gone, I still can't wait to give away souvenirs and bore the hell out of people with my long, complicated stories about Europe which really have no point. I can't wait to watch silly romantic films with April, and then dance around her living room because nobody can see us; I can't wait to ride around in Angela's car singing bad country songs in loud, annoying voices; I can't wait to walk the whole of my own hometown, and think of London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc. wherein all of the people are pretty much exactly the same, except they live in more costly housing.

I wish I could express my love for the world today. But I can't do it in words. If I could kiss the globe on the forehead, I would. I'm joyful to be alive. I'm joyful to be home.