When I came home from a year of traveling and living in Asia in 1997, I thought I would be happier. After all, I had just experienced a grand adventure, hiking the mountains of Nepal and working at schools and hospitals in Thailand and India.
Once I arrived home in Los Angeles, however, my mind and heart felt out of alignment with everything around me. My soul had one foot in Asia and one foot in the US. Although the airplane carried me home in about a day, the transition was not that clean.
Back home in LA, life seemed to be going on as before, as normal, but I had changed so much. I shared travel stories with friends and family but I could not properly convey what I had experienced. For a while I was of sync with those closest to me.
In many ways, reentry can be harder to adjust to than moving to a new culture. Many returnees find themselves grappling with depression and a sense of aimlessness.
In some parts of the world, the pandemic is still raging; in others, it is waning. If you find yourself in a place where things are opening back up, you may experience reentry issues, like expats returning home but with the added trauma of COVID.
As we venture back out into life again, we may struggle to adjust. For example, if you put off appointments like doctor visits or car maintenance during the pandemic you may find the thought of scheduling them overwhelming. You may be worried about how to manage your calendar, how to prioritize social engagements, or how to deal with changes to kids’ schedules.
Most of all, you may still be in mourning over everything we’ve lost. While life may be starting to look normal and perky on the outside, it may be months or more before we process all that has happened, especially if you lost loved ones.
Here are a few things that helped me in my many reentries:
- Be kind to yourself. Reentry is hard, bottom line, especially from a global pandemic. If you double-book something on your calendar, for example, go easy on yourself.
- Acknowledge difficult emotions and ditch the “should’s.” Just because you should feel happy about seeing friends again or going to lunch at a restaurant, doesn’t mean you will. These changes are likely to bring about a lot of difficult emotions.
- Witness and accept: When difficult emotions arise, observe and witness them. Notice where they show up in your body. Give them a gentle awareness and acceptance.
- Be patient. With so much trauma and loss, we may struggle with reentry for a long time. Grief and transition have their own timelines. Be patient with yourself and others.
If we acknowledge the difficulties of this transition, we can go through it with empathy and honesty. Be safe and be well.