“When you’re away you crave the home comforts.
Then when you return you forget why you missed
them at all and long for the things you left behind.
I grieve for the croissant.”
-Randall Brown, “The Hour”
I walked with my sister in her picturesque neighborhood. We were on our way to pick up my nephew from school with dog in tow. The day was beautiful; the air crisp, the leaves in hues of bright orange and red, the smell of suburbia and I, in that infinitesimal moment realized, “My gods, I’ve missed this.” “This” not being the crisp air, or the changing leaves or suburbia (definitely not suburbia) but a quiet, simple moment in the company of my sister and her hulking beast of a dog.
When I left Washington, D.C. over a year ago, I was quite honestly, exhausted of the city and what I perceived were its limitations. I desired change. Despite the basic surroundings though and new work challenges, things were not as different as I would have thought. I adapted rather quickly to life in Albania. Nor did I experience any counter-culture shock when I walked across the customs threshold back into the USA. I did not weep in the cereal aisle – or for me more appropriately, the wine racks.
On Thursday, I stood outside my old office building on 15th and M, waiting for Ben and Sarah, my former co-workers. Looking in, I saw Joe and Ms. Shirley, the front desk attendants, same as ever. After lunch, when asked if I wanted to visit the office, I could not. I could not face from my former co-workers that dreaded question of all Peace Corps volunteers, “Oh, what are you going to do next?” Not when I didn’t have an answer or even a clue as to what I thought my post-Peace Corps path should be.
The idea of coming back to D.C., while mixed with the pleasure of being near family, friends and food, also fills me with fear. It took going across the ocean to find perspective, but when I got there, not much was different, truly different. With the end of my service looming nearer, I feel the riptide pull of the old life I’m not sure I want. Is Washington D.C. my personal black hole, ready to pull me back in? The gravity of it is too much.
That Halloween night, my friend John and I went out. He dressed as an aging bureaucrat and I as a Peace Corps volunteer in existential crises. How could we have lost to the Invisible Man? John, however is a master of disguise in his own right. For the years I have known him he has worn the guise of a cynic, but, I believe him among the happiest of optimists and someone who rides change with casual ease. Somewhen during that night, I was inspired by John, who having faced his own crisis of stagnation, had found something new and worthwhile in D.C. and I realized the place always had opportunities. The place was never the problem. It was me.
To be continued…