Not enough hours in the day. It’s a commonly heard refrain in the US, and it’s amazing how quickly I’ve chimed in! The first week was a whirlwind of friends, family, reunions and readjusting to the strangeness of being back. We of course lucked out and found an incredible house via craigslist before we’d headed down to Austin – instead of crashing on couches like we’d expected, we were able to retrieve a key from under the mat and move right in to what has proven to be the perfect little house for us!
At the end of that first week we were both feeling less than enthusiastic about being back – after spending a year in aplace where there was somewhere new to go every day and something we’d never seen before around each corner, things in America just felt so sterile, so monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful to be back among the people I love and I have to admit that the big, clean bathrooms still amaze me, but overall the question of “what’s next?” wasn’t sounding so good.
We headed down to Austin on Sunday the 15th, and after a mind-numbing drive down I35 started to perk up at the sight of the skyline. Excitement set in once we got to see our house with our own eyes, and by the end of a beautiful Austin evening we were drinking Mexican beer with a group of friends and feeling much better about our return!
The crazed productivity began the next day and has continued ever since. Step one was getting the kitchen together, as we weren’t interested in the price or portion sizes of restaurant food (it turns out that food isn’t actually that much more expensive here, it’s just that the portions are four times as big!). After that it was a frenzy of purchasing, moving and refinishing furniture (thanks, craigslist!), hanging frames, paying bills, getting cellphones, planting herbs, finding a mechanic to revive my good-for-nothing scooter and searching for a place to put all of the things that have no place. After a year of carrying my world in a backpack, I am still in awe of the amount of stuff that I own (not to mention what Gabe owns . And I guarantee that it’s not much by your standards!
So it’s been good. Our house feels completely like home, the weather is gorgeous and we ride bicycles pretty much everywhere. Each day we’re reminded of what an awesome city this is, and it’s made that much better now that we can incorporate all of the little things and habits that we brought back with us. We’ve made several trips to the Asian groceries, bought a rice cooker, planted basil, kaffir lime and chiles – after a year of no cooking we were both anxious to get back to it and have been cooking three meals a day, most of them Thai (with lots of chips/salsa thrown in). The best of both worlds!
Probably the strangest thing about the return is time. To me, the past year was intense, packed with an incredible number of new sights, sounds, smells and experiences. So many things changed for me over the course of that year, and I felt that I grew so much. Coming home, however, is bizarre, because it seems that nothing has changed. A year isn’t so long in day-to-day life, and people are generally doing the exact same things they were doing when I left. It messes with my head and often makes me wonder if I did in fact leave at all!
That said, the biggest change for me was realizing what makes me happy and how I can incorporate that into what I do each day, how I support myself. I’m not planning to jump into the first job that comes along and I’m not willing to spend 40 hours staring at a computer screen again – it just doesn’t make me happy or healthy and life is too short to spend any other way!
I’m biding my time with a variety of small jobs, everything from freelance design (I’m available!) to wine promos to helping a woman decorate a church for Easter. I had a few interviews today and while I’m not going to expand on them right now (can’t jinx this!), I think that I’m about to end up exactly where I want to be. Gabe, meanwhile, has been busy with a number of impressive carpentry projects (he’s the reason our house looks good) and stumbled upon the investment deal of a lifetime (in the form of a Chevy truck), which is helping to cover his income needs for a bit.
All in all, we’re settling in quite well and while there are those “why did come back?!?” moments (three days on hold to get a cellphone?), overall we are happy to be here. I’m so thankful to have a clean slate like this and the chance to fill it with whatever I want – I’ll keep everyone updated as to what that is!