I've been home for almost a week now, for the first time in over a year.
Well, "home" is a relative term. I'm staying with family a stone's throw from my university, the place I called home before I left for Paris, only now it feels strange and distant. Most of my things are with my parents in Seattle, at the address that I list on official documents, but I haven't really lived there in quite some time. But home isn't defined by objects, physical boundaries or even people; it's being somewhere that embraces you like a security blanket. And I don't feel that warmth, not yet.
I had a co-worker in Paris, an American expat who'd been living abroad for five years or so. We secretly made fun of him because he used insults like "your mom" and "retarded" that used to be popular at home but have since fallen out of style. Hearing him speak was like cracking open a linguistic time capsule - a throwback to my middle and high school years.
Have I become obsolete? In returning to Silicon Valley I sometimes feel like Rip Van Winkle awakening to a world changed almost beyond recognition. I updated my iPhone to iOS 7 and had to look up a tutorial for how to use it. My friends tell me to download this app and try that new online service. Last Friday night after a concert I used one to get a ride to the train station. Opening the app as I followed the throng out of the auditorium, I sent for a car while crossing the lobby; by the time I exited the building the driver was at the curb. I didn't have to negotiate a fare, demand the meter be turned on or pull up the location because he didn't know where it was. It was so easy.
When I went out shopping on Sunday I first checked the store hours because, in other parts of the world, shops are closed from time to time. Not so in America. Likewise I felt overwhelmed by choice when I stepped into a supermarket - the bright lights, the million iterations of every product that probably only differ by a few chemical structures.
Maybe it's post-trip depression, or just the drastic shift from waking up eager to see what the day would bring to making endless to-do lists and running errands. There are plenty of things I "should" be doing, but instead I can't help but fantasize about leaving again. Whether it's getting a work holiday visa or volunteering overseas, I'm plotting my next move after I've worked a bit and saved up enough.
One adventure ends, and the next begins. The only question is: where to next?