A year ago yesterday marked my return to Sacramento from my time in PNG. A year is a long time and I feel like I have gotten over most of my culture shock but realized yesterday that I am having a really hard time living in three places.
I’ve always considered it a blessing to have many homes. I feel at home in Sacramento. I feel at home in Santa Barbara. I even feel at home in Southern Germany. But this is a little different. When I first returned from PNG, I remember feeling a bit giddy. People would ask me if I was sad and while I missed (and still miss!) the people, I replied happily that I was thrilled to be back. Now time has softened those feelings and I am still very much content not to be returning to PNG but somewhere there is a little part of me that is still holding on. I definitely feel at home in PNG, it is and probably always will be a big part of my life. But now I am no longer in PNG and don’t have plans at this point to return. So why is it so emotionally challenging to receive news from the Onobasulu, the good and the bad?
I am also looking forward to Australia. There are lots of unknowns but I am hopeful for the future. I’ve tried to remember what I felt before leaving for PNG the first time but those emotions are from another lifetime. I have changed. Australia and the aboriginal communities now consume a lot of my time, thoughts and energy but they are still easily displaced. I just don’t have the same strong emotional attachment or history with Australia, at least not yet. How do I train my heart and my head to look forward?
But of course all of this is compounded because I am not in Papua New Guinea or Australia. I am living in California. I’ve been here a year now. I own a car. I have an apartment. I have made new friends. I have reconnected with old friends. My family is here. And while this is all good, I have no desire to be permanently here. How do I live fully in California when everyone knows that I have one foot out the door?
There are no easy answers to these questions. I have to learn how to accept this as my normal. I am never going to feel completely and totally at home in one place here on earth. My life has given me opportunities to leave parts of my heart all over the globe. Each time I leave somewhere, my heart is different. The act of travel and connecting with people changes you. And despite the emotional challenges, the headaches and the tears, I wouldn’t have my world any other way.