the american dream: learning re-entry sucks…

“reality is a lovely place, but i wouldn’t want to live there…”

as i walked off the airplane when i landed in phoenix, i felt a weight hit my chest…maybe it was a train…a cassowary? (if you don’t know, you’ll have to google that one)  something.  breathing felt forced.  everything felt forced.  my body was still moving forward, but my pieces were scattered between two continents.  the great divide.  i went to baggage claim feeling anxious to see my backpack again.  it was the only thing in that entire airport that understood me…for it had gone on this adventure with me…from rei store tags to countless baggage claim tags and in the course of a year, we became mates my pack and i.  as it appeared on the conveyor belt, i had an overwhelming feeling to hoist it on and just bolt.  bolt for the nearest departure gate going anywhere, but where i had just landed.  i resisted.  when i went outside to the north curb to wait for my dad to pick me up, i found myself spacing out…wishing to hear waves crashing upon a shoreline instead of cars weaving their way around the airport traffic, kookaburras hooting like monkeys in the trees giving a warning to the jungle life below their perch, a familiar song being played on the guitar from a hammock by a beautifully dreaded frenchman…but all i heard was cars and rolling luggage.  when my dad pulled up and got out of his car, i cried…big surprise, hey?  quick hug and i got into the passenger seat and it felt so wrong to be there and not be the driver.  don’t even get me started on driving on the ‘right’ (wrong) side of the road…that’ll be a new adventure to conquer tomorrow.  everything is different than what i am now used to…and i find myself hating it.

when we got back to my dad’s condo, i forced him off my pack as he tried to helpfully pull it out of the boot (trunk)…i told him i had to carry it.  it made me feel like i was going places.  humouring me, he just sighed and smiled and walked on.  as we took the two elevators up to his unit, i found myself full of more resentment to american things.  down the toilet flush…i actually miss having a half and full flush option.  needless to say, my first night back on US soil was a tough one.  an emotional call to a special someone in cairns didn’t make being so far away any easier.  i felt heat and humidity like i had lived in back in queensland, i felt a warm night breeze, but when i looked up, there were no stars, there was no galaxy shining down on me…city lights and desert storm clouds made that impossible.  this wasn’t helping.  i awoke to hurricane winds and torrential rains pouring down…not the welcome to your new home i had been needing.  one way return ticket back to oz please and thank you…i haven’t even unpacked yet so that’s convenient…i am on the wrong continent.  i need my island back.

i am living with my dad again for the first time in almost a decade.  holy. shit.  i am living in a lounge room.  when i deflated the air mattress i am calling a bed now just yesterday i unplugged it and as the air came out, i laid on top to deflate it faster…i immediately started crying.  (what is wrong with me?  get this girl a drink or a padded room!) i was used to deflating an air mattress on a sandy beach or in a national park campground where ancient roots were coming out of the dirt…this carpet surface thing was all wrong.  the littlest things are making me mad here.  the smallest detail makes me sad.  it’s frustrating.  i know it will get better soon…must find  job(s) stat…but  i am learning that re-entry…is a real c u next tuesday.

i now find myself loving every lingering bite on my arms and legs from sandflies on the beaches of queensland to the asshole mozzies of the daintree rainforest.  a burn i acquired on burger night at our ball beach camp is now finally peeling and i absolutely love it.  my scab from a run in with an aggressive tree after a cheeky bush wee at a lower queensland beach when we walked out to an island at low tide has erased the massive bruise i endured and turned into a nice sized scar and i adore it.  there is an itch from another scab healing from our day on the tablelands waterfall circuit.  after spending a beautiful couple hours posted up under milaa milaa falls and swimming in the cleansing fresh water, we journeyed on to lake eachum where we made PB&J sandwiches out of the boot of the car, skulled goon straight from the bag, played frisbee and tossed an american football around and created a rope swing…i scraped the branch handle with my arm as i let go to fall into the depths of the lake off our adventure swing. it was awesome.  and now i get to hold onto it on my skin.  battle scars always hold a memory…mine hold the stories of thousands of kilometers conquered, several states explored, the incredible people i met along the way and tell secrets of the best journey of my life.  i now cherish every single scratch and scar, all my coppertone baby style tan lines, because they keep my journey alive.  they came with me when i had to leave australia to come home to america.  they remind me of my trials and tribulations, my ability to conquer fears, to laugh at danger and to take on all things new.  they are mine…forever.

when i am finally able to fall asleep these days…usually after 4am…it’s a dead sleeping pill induced sleep that helps me forget in that first vision of afternoon light when i awake, where i actually am.  then the light rail zooms past or the hurricane winds storm against the sliding glass door and i get another slap back to reality.  arizona is not home.  these are not my people.  so much that i find myself just wanting to kick them and insult their cliche american ways and then hop a tug boat back to the land down under.  i went on a harley ride through the desert with my dad today…his normal weekend mission to unwind…and a woman with terrible acrylic nails painted in sin city gold polish were holding a cigarette, steering (mostly in our vulnerable direction) and texting on her iphone in her oversized SUV.  this is america.  i realize this is a lot of places, but this is america.  i miss the jungle.  i miss carmila beach.  i miss sleeping in a tent and being woken up by birds singing and spiders trying to claim new territory above my head.  i even miss the mozzies buzzing in my ear.  i desperately miss the smile i woke up to everyday in my last month and hearing the question, “how did you sleep, babe?” with that relaxed morning sigh to follow.  i miss the air in the daintree night, providing clean and fresh oxygen to inflate me.  i miss the stars.  i miss everything australia.  this is america…and i don’t feel like i belong here anymore.


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