Reentry: the Beginning

It’s been almost three weeks. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll have spent time in five cities, two states, and two countries, and I'll have stayed in six different homes since I landed in Houston on June 8. What a ride it’s been! Here are my thoughts on reentry so far.

I’m holding it together on the outside (well, most of the time), but on the inside I’m still a mess. 

I still have existential crises over very simple things. For example, when I go for jogs in the morning it freaks me out thinking about how little I sweat during the day and how everywhere is air conditioned. Everywhere.

Example number two: I almost cried in a specialty craft store because everything in the building was just for fun. My Cambodian friends poked fun of us (Americans) because we do things “for fun.” No practical purpose. Not for food, not for money, not for resources. Just for pure enjoyment. We have entire stores in which everything sold is just for fun.

The change in culture, environment, and norms are huge. How does one make sense of it all?

It’s like I’m in information and sensory overload all the time.

My days haven’t been overbooked. In fact, they haven’t even been fully booked. I’ve visited with people and enjoyed their company, and I’ve had plenty of down time. Under normal circumstances, this schedule would be fine. However, I’ve found in this reentry process it’s easy to become overwhelmed because everything is taking twice as long to process.

So much change has taken place—from highway construction to friends’ relationship statuses—and it’s quite a task taking it all in. Again, how does one make sense of it all?

I’m still scared.

Recently I wrote in a post about how a friend asked about my fear.

I didn’t realize what a relief it was to talk about fear until she asked this question. In most conversations, I mention that living overseas is hard, and I may throw in a bit about loneliness. Yet somehow, I gloss over fear. I hit on this in my reentry confessions a few weeks ago, so I won’t delve into it here. The point is, I’m still terrified even though it may not show on the outside, and I'm still learning a lot about letting go of control.

I’m afraid my memories of Cambodia are losing accuracy.

In between the spurts of grief, life in Cambodia is starting to feel distant and far away. As I talk to friends and family about Cambodia, I find the same words coming out of my mouth again, and again, and again. I didn’t rehearse these lines, but they come out as though they’re rehearsed. I answer the same questions with the same answers and make the same lame jokes every time.

Rote answers scare me because it means I'm not actively remembering Cambodia and what it was like. I’m terrified I’m going to forget what life was really like—I’m afraid realistic memories will be swallowed up by rote answers. I’m afraid I’m going to lose my experiences.

Yet when I stop to think about life in Cambodia, I know I can’t possibly lose these memories. They’ve shaped me in ways too deep to be undone. I can’t un-remember the joy of riding on the back of a motorbike with the wind in my face, the serenity of writing blog posts at a restaurant in town, or the sweat dripping from my face all day long. No, I definitely cannot forget the sweat.

These experiences are forever a part of me, and so are the experiences learning to trust in God and witnessing His faithfulness over and over and over. I can’t un-remember this, and I can't un-trust Him. I’ve seen too much. I’ve been in too deep. With all my current fears and anxiety, I can’t stop believing Him and following Him. I guess that’s what happens when we say yes to His great invitation into His presence.

People may think I’m crazy for the way I live life (heck, I often think this whole thing is crazy), but today I’m clinging to this gift: I can’t un-see God’s goodness and faithfulness, and I can’t stop trusting and following Him. Fears, anxieties, transition messiness and all.

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