Leaving the comfort zone to embark on a new adventure
14.08.2013 - 14.08.2013 29 °C
Summer in Chicago is having time be on fast-forward. 3 months can feel like a short couple of weeks. It feels like yesterday that I made the decision to quit my job and travel before “repatriating” to Australia. There have been months and months of preparation leading up to today, yet it still doesn't feel real that in a couple of weeks, Chicago is technically no longer "home", in the sense of where I live.
After calling Chicago home for 3.5 years, my apartment is now empty with all furniture sold and all my belongings crammed into boxes and a few suitcases. The key milestones have been reached - one-way ticket is booked, broken the news to my family that I'm quitting my job and traveling, and handed in my notice. My beloved bike is dismantled and boxed, and all my favorite photos and artwork off the walls and carefully wrapped into boxes. Despite all these painful processes, leaving Chicago is not yet part of my reality.
A common question I get is, "Why are you leaving?" It's a hard question to answer because its not that I hate living here. I love this city and feel completely assimilated and at home as a Chicagoan. I've learnt how to adjust my accent and use words so that people can better understand me. Learnt that the red line smells like pee, and which el stops/lines to avoid. Learnt which times the lake front path is the worst death trap of tourists, rollerbladers, marathon runners and cyclists. Learnt that if the waitress gives you the wrong or unsatisfactory order, you can send it back. The list goes on - all the small and novelty, to large and life-changing, quirks of Chicago. There have been times when I've felt conflicted in my decision - mostly when I'm with good friends either at a great concert or delicious dinner that was super affordable, or taking advantage of the easy access to travel being in the US. But my need to be close to my family outweighs it all. In April, my dog of 13 years passed away. Not long after that, it was the Boston bombings. These two key events validated for me that moving home to be closer to my family is the right decision. And let's be honest, I probably couldn't have survived another Chicago winter, no matter how "mild" it is
It's still hard to feel completely comfortable with the decision, as I now feel I am Chicagoan first and Melbournian second. I hadn't heard the term "repatriation" until recently, when I started planning for the transition back to Melbourne. It helps to know there a term for it - makes it feel more...tangible...if that even makes sense. As irrational as it sounds, its a bit scary to think of assimilating back to Melbourne life. Most of my friends in Melbourne are moving in with significant others, getting married, buying houses and adding pets to their family. I'm quitting (what society considers) a great job to travel for 3 months, and I'll be returning "home" to live with family, unemployed and broke. I know I can't compare, yet I still do and envy the grass being greener over there.
What has helped is an article that described "re-entry shock". It is "when home just does not feel like home anymore". It helps to know these despondent feelings have been experienced by others before. Also, I know that just because I'm going back to Melbourne, doesn't mean it's forever. I can always come back to Chicago, or even go somewhere else. It's just right for right now. I know I have a lot to figure out, but I'll get there in my own way and in my own time.
All this talk about "home" reminds me of the TED talk by Pico Iyer, where his words ring true - "Where you come from now is much less important than where you're going...and home, we know, is not just the place where we happen to be born. It's the place where you become yourself".