From UG to NYC – The In-Between

I can hardly believe this week marks 3 months since my return from Uganda. In honor of that milestone, I’ve decided to write about my experience “coming home” and adjusting back to the USA. Stay tuned for some funny cultural musings in an upcoming post (here it is!)… 

I arrived back in America the Friday before Thanksgiving. Here was my initial “return” post. After a few days at my parents’ house in Texas, we hit the road for family Thanksgiving in Tennessee. I enjoyed a full week of family time, as I stayed with my aunt and uncle the weekend after turkey day. My parents drove back that weekend and left me to work my way back to Texas.

I traveled then to Nashville, St. Louis, and Little Rock. So my first few weeks back were transient–spent living out of a suitcase, waiting in airports, killing time, job-less and schedule-less, reuniting with dear friends and family–which I think was enormously helpful as I began to attempt to process my 18 months in Uganda. During this time I made the decision to move to NYC with AIDS Walk, I journaled, read several books, drank and ate and talked and explored with some of my favorite people.

I returned back to Texas the second week of December. Once my sister arrived home from her college finals, we hit the road again — off to ski in Colorado! I hadn’t been skiing in a decade; experiencing the wintry mountains was so restorative and just plain fun. Then it was back to Texas for a week of holidays — Christmas, Mom’s birthday, New Years.

For the first full month I was back I ignored all things personal life administration — emails, appointments, productivity, apartment searching. Which was glorious, but meant first week of January I hit the ground running. Found an apartment in NYC, planned my month of January out including doctors’ appointments, moving preparation, and the best — a trip to California and Oregon! Santa spoiled me this year. I returned to Malibu and reunited with so many Pepperdine people; I can’t properly articulate how much that place means to me. I even got to see some of the friends I made in Uganda that are based in LA. It was incredibly profound to visit; to again take stock of how much I have been blessed by the people there that have shaped me. I spent the weekend in LA with some of my best friends, then flew to Portland to reunite with Morgan (you may remember me writing about her in my Uganda blog!). We toured around Portland, spent time with her precious family, and took a road trip to Seattle where some more Uganda and Pepperdine reunions took place. My first trip to the Pacific Northwest was one for the books.

Had one last whirlwind week in Texas, got to celebrate one of my favorite women on this planet on her birthday my last night in town, then moved to NYC, where I was welcomed by one of the best friends I made in Uganda (shout out to Bliss — she’s moving back! Read here if you want to learn more…). In the few weeks I’ve spent in the city, I’ve gotten to connect with Uganda and Pepperdine friends — not to mention be completely inspired, energized, and enthralled with my new job and coworkers. The work of GMHC is important — working for AIDS Walk, which raises funds for GMHC and is the largest AIDS fundraising event in the world — is an honor (help me fundraise!).

I’m feeling blessed, content, and ready for whatever comes next. I have only a few months planned out — but being flexible isn’t all that bad. I wish there was a word for feeling the opposite of alone. Even though moving to a new place is isolating, loneliness is a feeling that can come with or without other people physically present. The gratitude and love I feel from all the beautiful friends who support me near and far are what propel me in whatever endeavor I undertake; the peace God grants me to work through fears related to accomplishments, competition, the future, making the right choices, and feeling crippled by options is what allows me to be bold; the anonymity and energy of this city — the hustle and the grit — motivate me to pursue my next step, but also enjoy the now. Presence is a virtue; a gift I can choose to receive daily.

Of course — there have been the not-so-highlight moments. The uncertainty of leaving a life behind. The pain of relationship dynamics changing and a season ending. The difficulty of returning back to your home culture with so many perspective-altering experiences that not everyone will understand/empathize with/even care about. However, what I’m learning through this is to take it one step at a time. I return from a “successful” stint in Uganda feeling equally invincible and vulnerable — I’ve succeeded only because of you. My own determination and merits aside, there were times this past 2 years that this journey was HARD, some of it Uganda-related some of it not. The thought of undertaking something similar in the future; the thought of putting my learnings and lessons into words; the thought of choosing a lease-city-job-life somewhere — all are still comfort-zone-stretching but the beauty in it all is taking things day by day. Giving myself and others the grace to be where we’re at, and listening to wisdom, discernment, inner-voice, God’s spirit, others’ insight, logic, and everything else guiding me to embrace what’s next.

I honestly can’t properly shout-out or give personal attention to everyone I’ve gotten to see back in the USA (not that y’all want that, anyway). But know that each of you have deeply touched me in my time of transition, decision-making, and change.

Feeling massively grateful,

LB

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