Where I Am

Part 2 of 3

“Attention passengers, do not leave any bags unattended…” This was the first thing I heard on the PA announcement of Chicago O’Hare International Airport. That’s a lie. The first thing I heard was a ground crew member yelling to his friend, “Chicken or beef!?” But the PA announcement was the first thing that stuck out to me, because the man speaking sounded like he was about to end every sentence with “da Bears” and I thought, “wow, I’m truly in the Midwest.”

Here are a couple of my first observations about America as I navigated O’Hare and landed in Cleveland a few hours later:

  1. Why is everyone talking so fast?
  2. People are so rude to each other.
  3. Thank the Lord I’m not a TSA worker.
  4. Haha, I can understand what everyone is saying!
  5. I wish I couldn’t understand what they’re saying
  6. Everyone looks attractive
  7. Lake Erie is beautiful
  8. Alright, people are really rude
  9. Fast food!
  10. Organized highways!
  11. Seriously, why does everyone look attractive?
  12. Mmmmmm clean drinking water
  13. Holy shit, I have so many clothes
  14. Yay family
  15. Yay friends
  16. Yay beer!!

And that was the moment I passed out for 12 hours.

The most common questions I’ve gotten since being home for about two weeks now, “Is it weird to be back?” “Can you still drive a car?” “What are you going to do now?” And very few other things. More questions have been about America than Thailand, which is fine but it does give me a little bit of anxiety. By a bit, I mean a lot, because I’m a millennial questioning all my life choices.

But I’ve realized after meeting up with friends for dinner and various meetings, that this is the new norm. At 23, we don’t see people all the time, and it’s not strange at all that I went a year without seeing any of my friends. Sometimes I forget what stage of my life I’m in now and still expect to see everyone when we’re back from summer vacation.

But unfortunately, now catching up over coffee every 4 months is much more common than talking for hours on the phone about your day with your friends. Which is a little sad and lonely, as I’m sure many people also relate to. It’s easy to long for college days of living in the same building as your 10 closest friends, and hanging out with them every second of every day.

And now, with everyone scattered across various cities and states, it can be even more difficult to keep in touch. But if there’s anything that living abroad taught me, it’s that the people who matter will still be there.

As far as the “What are you going to do now?” question, this is what’s been the toughest for me. I had a couple of thoughts about what I wanted to do, including living in Chicago or somewhere else around Cleveland. But that’s when my old mantra came back to me, “you can live in America, or you can live abroad, but you can’t do both.” At this point I have officially decided to return to Thailand in the near future. And in order to accomplish that goal, I need to focus on saving money, which could very well include living with my parents for a little while, working odd jobs.

I have panic attacks about this topic all the time. It’s a lose-lose. Either people see me as an entitled brat for moving back home for a bit, or people decide that I’m a low life scum not amounting to anything. I’m neither of those things. I’m a part of that stupid non-committal generation that’s always on their damn phones. And honestly, I’m proud of it. Because like it or not, we’re the future. And regardless of where I’m at, that’s a pretty exciting thought.

So life is not weekend trips to Vietnam anymore or traveling in the bed of a truck up a mountain. It’s dog walking and babysitting and surprisingly beautiful Cleveland weather.

It can be a little unsettling not having my own place and being so far from having it all together. But I’m just constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have this option. A lot of (if not most) people don’t. And that’s why I’m going back. Stay tuned.

Pro tip: There are some giant plastic birds in downtown Cleveland with no explanation.

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