Moments of Realization at 34,000 Feet
As I sit here on the plane for the last leg of the trip, I realized that in less than 8 hours, I will be standing on US soil. I may be stuck in customs, but I will be there. At this moment, I am overwhelmed to tears (which isn’t a bad thing since the air is so dry on the plane, but still kind of weird). I can’t believe this is finally happening. But I feel like I need to explain things a bit, and I think I need to remind myself of a few things as well. So, if you have already heard me explain this, please bear with me as I do some processing in this next section.
Back to the Past
For those of you who know my story, you already know that I’ve been living in China for almost 8 years. When I first came to China, I had originally planned to only live/work in China for 10 months. Yes, yes, I know, I stayed a bit longer than planned.
After the first 10 months, I decided to renew my contract for one more year, and at the same time, I decided not to go home to visit family until I felt like I had overcome culture shock. This may seem a bit odd, but my thought process was that if I went back for a 2-4 week visit and had to come back and finish my contract, I would be miserable upon returning if I was still struggling with culture shock.
For me, that meant not going home for almost 3.5 years. Yes, it took me a long time to overcome culture shock, and a big part of it was that I was pretty happy the first 6 months, but then my support in the city left, loneliness set in, and I ended up getting a cat. A year after rescuing the cat from certain death, he ended up dying anyway from kidney failure due to poisoned cat food due to a lack of food safety requirements for pet foods. This extended my culture shock and made me very upset and heartbroken for a long time.
All of that to say, even leading up to and after my first time going home, I never felt homesick. Even with the struggles of culture shock, there was a part of me that had made China home, and in my first apartment as an adult out of college, I was happy there and had no desire to leave.
Flash Forward to 2021
It wasn’t until about a year after covid hit when the rest of the world seemed to move on, but China adopted its “Zero Covid Policy” which basically sent entire cities and provinces into lockdown at the slightest increase in cases. This was also two years after I had been back to see family and the love of my life, and even traveling locally, was super challenging.
This was the first time in China that I had ever really felt homesick. To make it worse, I wasn’t just feeling homesick, I was feeling trapped. I fell into the habit of going to work and then going home, and nothing else. The longer I was there, the more trapped I felt.
I had already decided in early 2021 that I was heading home when I finished my contract in mid-2022. As I began the process of getting the cats ready to leave the country, the feeling of being trapped only increased. For me, this was miserable and a HUGE struggle because I never wanted to leave China with a bad taste in my mouth. I love China and I have been so blessed to live there.
Struggling to Leave
The problem with leaving was that flights were being canceled. For most people, that’s fine. They can always just wait for the next flight (usually later that a day or a few days later at the most). For someone like me, someone traveling with two cats during a time where traveling with pets is limited to certain airlines (due to heat/covid restrictions), if a flight gets canceled, I could be waiting months for the next flight with pet spots available.
Sure enough, a month before my flight, the city I was flying out of went into lockdown, and the airline canceled ALL flights out of the city for the WHOLE month of June. I was panicked, desperate, and angry. I just wanted to leave. I was going to take my cats instead of abandoning them like so many people had been forced to do, and then I wouldn’t be China’s problem anymore.
Why were they making it so difficult for me to leave?!
So, as you can see, the realization that I am less than 8 hours away from being with the love of my life, in my home country, and soon to be with my family again, hits so hard that I am moved to tears, even on a super dry airplane.
By the time I actually post this update, I will already be at home. This is such a crazy realization. I am so overwhelmed right now.
Prayers for the Coming Days
I know that I have faced so many challenges over the last few months. My stress levels have been so much higher than I think they have ever been in my entire life. Not only have I been teaching full-time, while working towards making a major career change from teacher to software engineer, but I’ve also been dealing with trying to leave, and trying to leave well. But the challenges are not over. Here are a few things you can continue praying for:
- Getting Settled
- Reverse Culture Shock
- Understanding from those around me, even if they can’t fully understand what I’m going through
- Preparing to find a job
- Finding a job
- Getting into a normal routine
- Not getting sick (even though I’m anticipating it)
- Safe travels as I go to visit family in the coming weeks
- Relationships with those around me
Thanks so much for your prayers and for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate the interest and support. If you’re interested in continuing to read about my journey, follow my blog and check out some of my other posts. Have a blessed day/night!
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