Two weeks ago today, I returned to the United States after three and a half months abroad. Much of my time in Australia was marked by bouts of extreme homesickness, and I frequently found myself checking the calendar to see how many weeks and days I had left until I could get back to my family and friends. I did a bit of keeping in touch with people back home, but being 14 hours ahead of everyone made it exceptionally difficult, and I’d also made a conscious decision to self-isolate and focus on myself and my personal growth. Additionally, contact was involuntarily severed between myself and my younger—and only—brother, when he shipped off to bootcamp for the Marines.
He’d made the decision to enlist toward the end of his senior year of high school, and when I left for Australia, his departure date was toward the end of August, well after my return home. Then, it was moved up to late July. And once again, to mid-June. Snapchat and family group texts allowed me to see him being sworn in and shipped off, but it hurt to miss such an integral moment. I’d already missed his and his twin sister’s high school graduation since I was in Melbourne, and felt awful about it. Outweighing the guilt and hurt I felt, however, was fear. News coverage of Donald Trump’s idiocy had been endless, and when folks realized I was an American, they would often ask more eloquent versions of what I knew to truly be “Dude, what the fuck?” For a while, I was able to cringe-laugh at media coverage, and quickly give witty responses when asked about the state of affairs in America.
And then I had a panic attack while watching the news.
Morning coverage of the beginnings of Donald Trump instigating N. Korea sent me into a spiral that landed me at the worst-case scenario: The US going to war, my brother being deployed, and him never coming home because he was killed in action. I ended up taking a personal day from my internship because I was so shaken and could barely function. That was the first of two exceptionally jarring moments which reminded me that I wouldn’t be shaking my head and laughing from the outside for much longer. The second was while watching coverage of the white supremacist (for the love of God, can we please retire the cutesy and unnecessarily polite “alt-right?”) rally, and resulting carnage, in Charlottesville.
The idea of going to war made me fear for my brother’s life; the idea of white supremacists boldly exiting the shadows made me fear for my own.
On the morning of my flight back to the US, I felt nothing. No joy, no fear, just numbness. After a layover in Auckland, New Zealand, I officially touched down on US soil for a layover in Houston, Texas. It hurt to accept that I was actually back, and I felt genuine shame when I was split from foreign passengers and guided to the customs line for US citizens. My suspension of reality had officially come to a close, and all I wanted to do was hop on a flight right back to Melbourne. I wish the struggle of re-entry was as simple as jetlag, awkwardly walking on the left side of the sidewalk, or struggling to remember that tax isn’t already included in prices at the store. Those things are certainly part of my experience since coming home, but they pale in comparison to a persistent–and at times, paralyzing–fear of the direction our country is taking, and what it means for myself and those I hold dearest.
It’s a lot to process, but like with anything else that’s difficult, I’ll just continue to take it one day at a time.
Til Next Time,