The Hardest Part About Coming Back

We’ve been back in the states for over a month now, and in some ways it was like we were never gone. The question I have been asked most often is what the hardest part is about coming back. I’ve travelled a lot before, and I don’t really go through culture shock like a lot of people do. I hadn’t really felt like it had been hard at all, and yet I had been feeling kind of “off.” I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks last week during a day I thought would be predictable. We have built a life here in Saint Louis around a church and community that we love. The smallest things had changed, and I didn’t know about it. I felt out of the loop and ungrounded and disoriented all at once. Life here had kept moving forward without us while we were gone, and I didn’t like it. I realized that was what the hardest part about coming back has been. Feeling disconnected from the life here that I thought was so consistent. There is something about community and feeling needed that I think is so essential for humans, and coming back and not knowing quite where to jump back in has been harder than we expected. Everything going on in Nairobi was really dependent upon us to make it happen, in a lot of ways. It’s not like that, coming back here. It’s easy to feel disconnected.
We were not gone for that long, but at the same time, our life for the past year or so has completely lacked the permanence that a lot of people take comfort in. We have been completely without a permanent home; going from living in an apartment to a camper, to with friends, back to the camper, to Uganda, to Kenya, back to Uganda, back to Kenya again, back to Saint Louis, with family, on the road sleeping in the back of the car for a month, back to living with friends. It has been really fun. It’s been the kind of adventure you dream about for years as a young person. It’s also been exhausting in ways that creep up on you. It was exhausting coming back from Africa and trying to figure out where we would sleep that week. Luckily, wonderful friends have given us a longer-term space. This summer in Saint Louis has proven to be too stormy to accommodate camper-life.

How do you live among two communities at once, on opposite sides of the world, without feeling disconnected and out of place? Maybe it starts with realizing what the struggle is in the first place, then letting your friends know that it is hard, and that you need them to help you stay healthy and feel needed.Ā  It’s not really a magical, fairy tale kind of life, but it is good. It’s really good.Ā 
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