Saturday, June 13, 2015

Thoughts About the US and Abroad

It was bittersweet being at home this time.  It is hard to be so far away from family, with trips limited to just once or twice a year.  My parents seem so much older and more fragile each time I come home. I was so busy this time I didn't even have time to see friends for a casual lunch or dinner, or to go to my tenth reunion, or really to just sit for a bit and savor the little time that I have with the few people who mean so very much to me in this short life.

That's why Santa Barbara was so wonderful.  But I wish I could have had Santa Barbara for my entire trip.

It all led to some emotional late nights in New York with me hunched over the computer, wondering: about life, job, expectations, desires.  Does it make sense to live so far away - what is the point, is it worth it, why are we doing it?  Is it really selfish, to want to explore and live this life 8,000 miles away from all of my relatives, jetting off to sunny clime tropical islands at the drop of a hat, but only making it back to the US once a year?  I was surprised to unearth so much guilt and hesitation during this trip.

I guess everyone at home also wants to know when we're coming back to the US.  And I don't know what to say because I don't know.  In many ways it is an easier and arguably nicer life - clean air, blue skies, big trees, stores stocked with everything and anything you want, space for days.  A home for every family, a car or three for every driveway.  It is a comfortable life.  A good way to bring up children.

But it's also been an amazing experience to see the US from abroad - the biased media, the gun violence, the racial tensions, the obesity… the gun violence!!  I mean, it's crazy.

It also shocked me how little things have changed in the US.  Santa Barbara looked exactly the same as it had two years ago, down to the same yoga studio, CVS store, and coffee shops.  Every single one of my favorite watering spots were still in New York City - the diner, the gym, the little park, the restaurant, the cafe, the Whole Foods.  It was both comforting and disturbing.  (Maybe if I had spent some more time (or any time) in Brooklyn I would have seen the sea change).   I'm certain lots of little things changed in these places, but on a macro level, it seemed everything had stayed exactly the same.

It is a simple concept so I feel kind of silly typing it, but, this world is so large.  There are so many nooks and crannies and experiences and ideas.  From a very young age I have yearned to see every country and continent, to see how others so different from myself live, to understand how my ideas and values measure up against everyone else's.  I've always felt that there was something so much greater out there -- that such an experience would be bigger than the sum of all the parts and also the key to our humanity, if that makes sense.

And so, it has been such an amazing experience to be able to travel to so many areas on this side of the world, all of which are so difficult to get to from the US.  Viewed in that light, this time abroad has been an immeasurable gift.  It just leaves me wondering sometimes where it all leaves me!

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