The Depression after the Vacation - Reflections And Reverse Culture Shock

I felt I needed one last post to sum up our travels after receiving an irate email last night about how I left the story off at:

Destiny dictates I can't NOT get on that aircraft back to Raleigh, society doesn't let me suddenly stay. No I would be boarding flight 173 tomorrow, not because I want to, but because I had absolutely no other choice. It wouldn't be a conscience decision. It would be whatever forces are driving my life, pushing that one foot in front of the other while tears roll down my cheeks and in my mind I'm screaming "I don't want to go."

Apparently the reader threatened never to read my stuff again on account of, as she states, "I've never read a blog that made me as sad as yours tonight." I assume that's a compliment, but it's also clearly a reflection of something I think many people are hesitant to talk about after returning home from abroad: depression.

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality and, instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." Samuel Johnson

So where does that leave us? Day 9 was a eight hour flight back to Raleigh. Since then I've been deeply depressed to the point I probably should seek medical advice. Then again, with no health insurance, that's not likely going to happen. It's literally like walking around with a knife in your chest.  I confessed to Shan, that if there was pill, I'd gladly take it to make the pain go away. What would I tell my therapist anyways? I found happiness somewhere else, and feel like living in the States is complete Hell? That there's no way out! What sort of medicine do you give a crazy woman whose been transformed to a point she's not entirely sure she's wholly American anymore? While this bout of emotional depression is certainly the worse I've encountered, I went through a similar feeling last year. It drove me to work hard at finding a way to return to Europe. For six months I diligently weighed every option, every job, every school. In the end, when all the doors were closed I went into my room for a week with a $30 bottle of Spanish Porto and demanded to be left alone. Eventually I got on with life and did my best to forget, ignore, and pretend like none of it happened. In the end I guess I succeeded. I even began to admire my life here in the States again. A nice house, two cars, a job writing and making money from my own home. It's not that bad of a deal, right? Apparently I had got so good at pretending that I actually believed I could get on a plane again to Europe and come home without any repercussions. I was tragically mistaken. The moment we got there it was as if every detail, every moment, every feeling came rushing back in. All the fears I had created in my head to distance myself from what I loved suddenly vanished and I was once again; saved, if only briefly from the inevitable truth: that I am completely, 100% without a doubt: hopeless.

Since it's now clear to me that who I've become isn't changing anytime soon, and my phone isn't going to ring off the hook for a crazed travel writer in Belgium, I suppose I should reflect on the good things we learned from this trip:

So what did we learn? Well, we learned a lot of French. My favorites were:

Chouette  - meaning owl, but generally means "cool" or "awesome".

Ouais - pronounced "way" it's basically "yeah" commonly used more often than "oui" [wee]. You'll feel like a complete idiot the first time you use it but no one else will think anything of it until you get back to the States and say it to the Airport parking lot attendant forgetting you're back.

Chez Moi - As in "lets go back to my place?" Leave it to me to acquire the only French lessons in the world that left us with only the appropriate phrases to pick up dates and bring them back to our hotel for sex.

We also learned about Schtroumpfs known in America as Smurfs, and that they're actually Belgian, and there's a much deeper meaning to all of it.

We learned a bit of Dutch too:

Dank U - There's no forgetting the moment we walked out of a frites restaurant and Shannon commented how she thought it was nice they tried to write "Thank You" on the Belgian receipt next to the French translation. Sarah looked at her like she was completely nuts trying to decided if indeed she should tell her it's not a misspelling of English, but Dutch for the same phrase. (Pronounced: DAHNK-uh.) The week continued with us saying "Denk Youz" everywhere we went.

We learned to be quiet, sit closer, talk softer.

We also learned the sexiest post a woman can do is to put her arms behind her head and let her odor fly. With this pose you'll attract men for miles.

We learned touching another's knees is the first sign of intimate intentions.

We learned at any single moment, in every pub in the world there's at least one drunk Scottish man to buy you a drink.

We learned Winnie the Poo was right especially when we had to speak French and transverse France alone.:
There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

We learned some Americans think the only birds in the world are bald eagles which just happens to rhyme with "sea gull". Something may have been lost in translation. Also, even the ducks are more friendly in Europe than the States.

We learned: religion isn't always bad. It's sometimes beautiful, poetic, and sometimes it surprises you with acceptance.

We learned our friends are priceless.

We learned that simply saying "deux barbecue bacon cheeseburgers si'l vouz plait" will only successfully allow you to order dinner at Quick Burger if you say it with a French accent.

We leaned the 3 weeks of French was far more useful than the 3 months of Welsh. Not once did I get to say "dw'in hoffi cymraeg cacennau." Though I did get Welsh cakes merci very much.

And while there is a lot more, I will end on this quote from Thomas C. Wolfe, a North Carolina native who wrote on the drabness of American Life and famed for the phrase "you can't go home again--not ever."

..And at the end of it he knew, and with the knowledge came the definite sense of new direction toward which he had long been groping, that the dark ancestral cae, the womb from which mankind emerged into the light, forever pulls one back--but that you can't go home again...

You can't go back to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of "the artist" and the ideal...
He saw now that you can't go home again--not ever. There was no road back. 

The question is now, where do I go from here?


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