Well, a month and two days have elapsed since I returned home from my time abroad. It simultaneously feelings like years and minutes since I left Sarajevo. At times, my experience abroad is a tightly bound box living on the back burner of my soul, my mind and my emotions. Since I’ve returned home, life has uprooted in ways I could never have anticipated. Home no longer feels like home, and I’m attempting to establish a new normal. Retail therapy at World Market only goes so far; Anthropologie only has so many white plates and Volcano candles to fill my kitchen. Then it hits. Loss. Grief. Memories. I have to sit with feelings that I’m not accustomed to feeling.
Reentry is an interesting phenomenon, and one that few people grasp when they ask how my summer was, particularly those expecting a jovial response. I’ve nailed the line “It was good. Really intense, but really good.” Most people are satisfied with that answer, which is annoying and relieving at the same time. However, for my program – International Disaster Psychology – we are required to take The Psychology of Grief and Loss this fall. This course has already cracked the shell of my cursory response. I can no longer just say my summer was hard and I’m not adjusting well to life in Denver. We dig. We prod. We feel.
I miss Bosnia. I miss waking up and getting an espresso and fresh squeezed orange juice to start my day. I miss listening to podcasts and journaling for a couple of hours without feeling stressed about getting to work or finishing an assignment for school. I miss working shorter, but highly productive hours. I miss conversations with my coworkers about life and experiences and dreams. I miss living with my roomies, as insane as that hostel was at times. I miss walking everywhere. I miss my friends. I miss the imperfections of the city. I miss the challenges that remind me I am alive and engaged in the craziness of life.
School started three weeks ago, and I have yet to open a textbook. I don’t recognize myself. Where did the motivated, passionate, enthused Laura go? How do I integrate my experiences in Bosnia into life here rather than yearn for the life I left a month ago?
I’ve decided to start sharing stories, to go beyond the one liner I crafted in response to how was Bosnia? I’ve decided to start taking care of myself, forcing myself to go to the grocery store, even if it is just to buy flowers. I’m presenting at a conference in a couple of weeks on my experiences and critiques and concerns and hopes for Bosnia. I’m leaning in to relationships more, slowing down more, taking time to value what I had time to appreciate while I was abroad. I’m trying to create a new normal here – not forgetting and not dwelling, but integrating, reconciling, and incorporating my Bosnian life into the here and now.