And then IT sets in. At least for me IT does. I lie jet-lagged in bed, my body goes numb, my thoughts fly around a million miles an hour and then they slam into an invisible glass window coming to a dead halt as they drip down the glass…
It’s only natural to feel nostalgic or sad when a big trip comes to a close. You’re so busy packing, settling rent with your landlord, checking out of a hotel, kissing foreign friends goodbye, getting to the airport and taking off down the runway that sometimes you don’t realize you’ve left ’till you’re home. It’s surreal.
Then you think, wow, crap, I’m home, that went fast, what was the place like again? And you frantically try to seal all your memories in a tiny box in your brain so you never forget how coffee from the patisserie around the corner tasted, or how fresh-cut grass smelled in the park by your apartment, or how stones on the sidewalk looked when you walked to school. You want to remember the beat of the bass in your favorite club, pushing the little red button to stop the bus, tasting free samples of bread, olive oil and cheese at the markets (pretending you’re interested in buying but you’re actually just looking to get a free lunch). The chime of the clock tower. The sooty smell of city exhaust mixed with deep fried McDonald’s and spicy Indian restaurants. Smoking hookah. Crossing bridges. Staring at Picasso’s paintings. Dancing to street musicians. Skyping your friends and family. Missing home. And then not missing home at the same time. Feeling on top of the world.
But most importantly, you want to remember the way you jumped from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, taking control, bending over backwards to start a new life for yourself in a foreign country. You went from routine to the uncomfortable, exhilarating thrill of IT, and that IT—whatever IT was—changed you forever. You were forced to adapt to IT, embrace IT, love IT, deal with IT, and IT slowly morphed from new to normal to part of your identity.
IT can be a feeling or a tangible thing. IT can be someone you met, your favorite way to walk to the supermarket, your first time doing something terrifying. IT can be one thing or a million things. Everyone who makes a life abroad has an IT. IT is different for everyone, and everyone feels different when IT isn’t physically there anymore. Now that you’re home… How do you deal with the apparent loss of IT? How can you never forget, learn from, and cherish how IT changed you?
As I lie in bed aching for IT, I realize that IT made me a little tougher, a little more interesting, and a little wiser. So I get out of bed, rub jet-lag from my eyes, make a cup of coffee, and get on with IT. My dripping thoughts peel away from the invisible window, collect themselves, and I smile in the realization that this trip, this IT that I’m missing, isn’t really gone. No, IT’s now a part of my soul. And IT always will be.