Somehow, I’ve rejoined the class of working Americans who suffer only from paper cuts, hangovers and the constant feeling of being late for something more important than this. If there is a more dismal fate out there, I’m want to uncover it. Free from all those gritty existential questions and global disaster, I’m puttering around this American landscape and waiting for a free moment to take a good look around. And I don’t just mean a good look at the tulips on Michigan Avenue, beautiful though they may be. No, what I’m impatient for is a deep understanding of just how I got here and what comes next. A scathing look, isn’t that what they’re calling it these days?
It’s taken much longer than expected for me to assess the scars and wounds of my return. After all, so much of it has been blissfully glazed over with the joys of reunion, domesticity and microwave popcorn. While any phrase involving ‘dream’ is a painfully over-used aphorism for these first nascent years of adult life, I am hard-pressed to find more appropriate terminology. Blame it on the helicoptering parents or the inflated egos of elementary school, but my generation is all about living the dream, whatever it may be. And living the dream, I have found, is one perilous undertaking.
How I feel back in a world where even the bathrooms smell like brown sugar is uncertain.
So much of it feels like a farce. A funny thing happening on the way to…. Where are we going again? Where are all of these seemingly arbitrary decisions really leading me? A scatter plot, a pivot table – I’d grab onto anything that gave me an inkling of what things might be like a year from now.
But, then again, it’s easy to be reminded that everything here (paychecks, rotting food in the fridge and parking garages) is real. That what we have here is plenty.
Discount coupons strewn all over the front stoop.
Solicitous posters slipped under the door inviting us to the circus.
Innumerable phone books rotting outside in the rain.
I am unaccustomed to the onslaught of activities that don’t actually require interaction. Commuting, webinars, and self-check out at the grocery store. I can go hours sitting in my office without talking to a single soul. I get up to fill a water bottle or pour another cup of coffee just to confirm that I’m not the only one. A real change from last fall when I slipped into any empty classroom I could find to escape my eager students and the eternal lamp that shone on me wherever I went.
How does one chronicle this transition – from a village in Ukraine to Ukrainian Village? I am not sure. But I think, if you’ll oblige, I’ll make a stab at it. I sit here in the kitchen, heating up grains as balm for an aching back just like Luba taught me and I think, after these six months of blind movement forward, I’m ready to start the telling again.