By the time you read this, I’ll be jetlagged to here and back in Chicago on the first evening on our a six-week visit. I honestly am excited beyond words. Well, as excited as I can be with depersonalisation (although it does come ashore and retreat like the tide, and really depends on the day and how much stress I’ve had that day).
I was texting back-and-forth with my sister-in-law Darcie on Sunday, and the subject of living in New Zealand and visiting my stomping grounds in Chicago came up. I have spoken about this before with other people, so the concept isn’t exactly new to me, but I thought it seemed timely to bring it up again.
The two worlds are so separate that they are hard sometimes to reconcile. What I mean by this is that the only constant between Chicago and New Zealand, for the most part, is Noel. I haven’t had a lot of family or friends visit me here in New Zealand in my 19 1/2 years, and I think if that had happened more often, we wouldn’t have this blog.
(I’m not making a dig about people not coming to visit me, so please don’t take it that way. I’m more explaining how these two worlds often seem very different.)
I said to Darcie that reconciling these two worlds can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes, when I get to Chicago, it feels like New Zealand was all a dream, and I’ve woken up from that dream to be back where I started. I used the Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz analogy before, but that’s somewhat accurate; going from the black-and-white world of Kansas (or, in this case, Chicago), where everything and everyone is familiar, where you are comfortable and everything can be mundane, to the full-colour world of Oz (New Zealand), where everything is strange, where you are exploring new things and everything can be exciting, but you seem a lot more alone than you were at home. You get back to home, the entire journey seeming to have been a very real dream, and you try to tell everyone where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, but words and photos and descriptions somehow don’t do it justice or jam in your throat, sometimes as the eyes of those you are talking to about this wonderful journey glaze over in feigned interest.
It isn’t quite as simple as that, but it’s an analogy that works for many people familiar with The Wizard of Oz.
Sometimes, too, I confuse phrases and words. What someone might say in New Zealand is something I’ll utter in Chicago to have the other person or people look at me strangely. It happens the other way around, too, though.
As time has marched on, though, my time in Chicago doesn’t always seem the same. Life, culture, America has moved on in my absence. My brothers joke about a movie or TV show they’ve seen, and I feel oddly distant because I don’t get the reference. Someone talks about something I’m unfamiliar with because the terminology or technology is different from New Zealand. And so on and so forth.
I think the first time I really could peg the feeling down was when my Grandpa was dying, and I rushed back to Chicago to be with my family and with him. The analogy I made then, and that I’m making now, is that I feel like a guest star on a TV show. No, actually, the analogy goes further than that; I used to be a regular on the show, I left for some reason or another, but the producers keep bringing me back as a guest star for one episode here, another two episodes there. The other characters, the ones I used to interact with, have all moved on, all had their major storylines, and sure, maybe something happened in my storyline while I was off-screen, but no one was there to bear witness to it.
That’s probably the best description I can come up with.
So, sometimes these two worlds seem so different that it is hard to merge the two in my head. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to integrate them a lot better.