For a while, it seemed too big.
There was too much.
Too much to sift through.
Too much to think about.
It was a denial - was it a denial? Whether my return from the Watson year was an eager casting off of the title "foreigner" or a wholehearted embrace of familiar language, culture, and community, I'm not sure.
Please don't misinterpret that. I believe with my whole soul in the value of seeing and experiencing and learning from other cultures. I don't for a millisecond write off the year's experience as anything but the transformative and mind-blowing year that it was.
Yet life-changing is not easy. Life-changing means subjecting yourself to experience. It means putting yourself out there. It means not being invisible. It means...difficulties. Joys, hard work, laughter, failure, success, rejection, confusion (lots of confusion), frustration...is there any way to describe a year of traveling alone? I don't think it can be rattled off in a list.
After that year - 365 days of constant exploration and discovery, of entirely new places and faces, languages and music, clouds and landscapes - I was worn out. I was craving a familiar face, a familiar place, the everyday intimacies that we take for granted: the chipped red paint on the front door, the smile of a neighbor, the familiar pothole on the road (I'm imagining that scene from the film "It's a Wonderful Life" where George Bailey, upon returning from the haunting dream world to his real life again, desperately searches for a scrap of familiarity and, finding his daughter's flower petals in his pocket shouts "Zuzu's petals...Zuzu...THERE THEY ARE!") Okay, it wasn't that dramatic. But wow, it felt good to be home!
The return was fantastic. Overwhelming. Stupefying. I have so much stuff. Clothes. Books. Possessions. For one year, I had a backpack. The next day I had a room full of things in a house on some land. But the biggest shock was family. Friends. They were all there. Doing their thing, being their wonderful selves. And I was a part of it.
(That's probably the most meaningful gift anyone could ask for. I felt so grateful. I still do. I swore not to take that for granted anymore, not to take any detail for granted. I was a part of a community of people who appreciated me and loved me and occasionaly let me know it, although most of the time it was through subtle signs like saying "good morning" or asking me if I would please cut the grass or sharing a meal. )
So why all this writing? Why now?
This blog is a story. It began as my cloud story. It began before I received the Watson Fellowship, when I was formulating ideas about how I see the world, wanting a place to express those ideas and wondering if there would be an audience interested in listening. This blog is that vessel. That medium. The ideas continue, but for a while I had to not think about it. I felt pressure. I had returned with a load of wonderful experiences, experiences that still come out in stories here and there and that I often surprise myself with by remembering. I have over a dozen journals from that year and thousands and thousands of images.
They are valuable. There is a lot to be learned from them, a lot to be shared, but it must be done thoughtfully and relevantly. I want these ideas to live, and I want to continue to share my thoughts on the clouds, to move forward with a grateful nod to the past and a passionate eye for the capacity to change the way we think in the future. This is a place that lives. Thanks for listening. The clouds today are beautiful.