“Home just as you left it but still you’re shaken,
Like walking into a museum somehow out of time.
It’s all the same except the girl in the hallway”
How to Return Home by Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, some of my favorite contemporary musical theatre composers, was playing on repeat in my head as I boarded the plane home for the first time, since beginning this year of service.
I found myself very conflicted. I knew I was excited about going home. The prospect of rest was very exciting. I hadn’t seen or talked much to my twin brother, sister and dad. I was excited to hear about their lives. I plans to see as many of my friends as possible, with everyday dedicated to seeing one, sometimes two, of them. I was excited for home cooked food, for a refrigerator full of food and vegetables, to use a car to go places, and not having to worry/pay for things. Going into this week a home, I had told myself I would give myself a week of living unintentionally, letting family and friends spoil me, just while home. I’ll get back to this point later.
While I was excited, I found myself very anxious. I worried about how much my opinions, life and view of the world had drastically shifted in four months. How could I reenter a space that was comfortable, when I have spent the past four months being intentionally distrustful of comfort? How would people respond to this drastic shift? How annoyed would people become of my constant comments on systems, capitalism and the constant pointing out of the ways in which white privileged is ingrained so deeply into every part of our lives? I wanted to enjoy being with my family and friends, but how could also bring this new feeling of accountability to these issues to people who hadn’t gone through these four month with me?
So how did it actually go? Well, within the first day of me being home, I had sent this text to a friend.
“Friend: Sounds like home life is treating you well.
Me: If you count me going on a rant about consumerist culture in a Home Depot for all to hear, then yes. It has been a very interesting 7 hrs…”
Within 7 hour of being home, my mom had taken me out to eat, gone shopping at Home Depot, gone to Princeton to buy coffee and stocking stuffers (aka Lindt Chocolate), and then debated buying something for dinner to bring home. I think by the end of those 7 hrs we had spent at least the equivalent of all four stipends combined. It was definitely a culture shock. I had to work hard to not be judgmental and lectury.
I found myself using my retreat facilitator skills with my family. I was asking questions of why were doing something; pointing out problematic language; questioning beliefs and opinions; using the phrase “Can you talk more about that?”; and my favorite conversation started with my family, say something highly controversial just to get conversation flowing.
I learned a lot about my family and their beliefs. We had MANY conversations about social justice issues. We talked about and I learned new opinions they held. I questioned them and myself. I stood my ground and articulated clear and personal points to my arguments. I had the last word in an argument/discussion with my brother (this never happens in my family)! I found myself not sacrificing what I had learned being in Chicago, and also, being confident in my knowledge to hold my ground. These conversations with my family not only fueled me in knowing that we had learned something, but also made me confident to return to Darst. If I could handle an argument over these issues with my family, I could surely handle retreats.
I found myself returning to Chicago a week later with a few discoveries:
One, New Jersey no longer felt like home and while that scares me, I’m actually excited to know that. Chicago, Darst and especially the people here are my home. While I only have 6 months left, knowing that has helped in my discernment process.
Two, pick your battles. Some people, I felt comfortable to push, question and challenge. Some people, I couldn’t. I realized it depended on the relationship with the person. If our relationship was stronger and closer, I felt freer to challenge.
Three, this work is desperate and immediate. We are SO unaware of the ways in which we are broken in our communities and a society. While our society is broken, WE ALL ARE BROKEN. By returning home, I saw that in new ways. The places I that used to fuel me and be comfortable, made me so uncomfortable. I went to see a few Broadway shows and it pained me. The shows didn’t stand for anything. The people in the room were white and older. A place that had been magical, was now a hard space to enter. Doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, just sitting in the complexity of it all.
Four, I need to find a way to take care of myself. I felt myself battling exhaustion. I slept 8-9 hrs and then napped. Would go meet a friend and feel fueled by them. I need to start being ok with not doing everything. I need to prioritize and pick my battles. Sometimes that priority needs to be me.
Till Next Time,