Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted an update, but life has been crazy. It’s been two months since I left Mozambique, two months full of class, work, stress, friends, and life. Sometimes it feels like it was just a dream or something that happened years and years ago, but other times I remember things–moments, memories, prayers–so vividly that I start to cry.
I really struggled with adjusting back to life here, so I decided to write this post. It will mostly be about my adjustment journey and things that I believe can help others adjust after a life-changing experience in another country.
So, the first few days back were weird. I was sick, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, and I honestly don’t remember much of it except that I was so tired I didn’t think I’d ever feel not tired again. I remember thinking in the airport when I saw my family, “They’ll never really understand,” and that thought made me feel alone. I quickly realized that while they truly would never understand, that they would be able to support me and help me through my transition back to “real life” in America. That’s the first thing I’d say to anyone struggling with adjustment: find a support system, whether it’s friends or family, because they can be your constant in a time of change.
After the first few days, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an amoeba, a parasite, and bacteria in my lungs. I was put on medicine and started to feel so much better. I continued to sleep a lot, but also made an effort to spend time with friends and get out of the house as much as possible. This was also a huge help in adjusting back, because my friends were interested in hearing all of the stories and seeing all the pictures from my travels. I was able to share about the experience that changed me so much, but was also able to connect with friends and look at the present instead of focusing on the past.
Then came the time to move back to OU. I think this change was really healthy for me because I was able to come to Norman and reconnect with all of the friends I hadn’t seen over the summer. I was also able to reconnect with my church here in Norman. When classes started, though, I found myself unmotivated and depressed. I think this was the hardest part of my transition: finding a purpose. I had spent so much time preparing and planning for my trip to Mozambique that it had consumed a lot of my life. Then I travelled to Mozambique and had a very defined purpose: to serve. It was easy to answer the question, “Why are you here?” in Africa, but not quite as easy in America. Why was I here? What was my purpose at the University of Oklahoma? My heart wanted nothing more than to catch a plane to Mozambique and pick back up where I had left off, trying to serve and love those kids so well. I struggled through the first two weeks of class, trying to find motivation to succeed and focus in my classes even though I felt purposeless. At the end of the second week, though, I went to church and listened to the sermon. The title was “Why Am I Here?” It pinpointed exactly how I felt, and the pastor explained that our purpose right now was to learn, to be light, and to prepare for the future. That really resonated with me and I left feeling much better about life. I knew that my purpose was to learn, to be light, and to prepare for the future, so I pursued that with everything I had in me. I got a job, started doing much better in my classes, and found that I could enjoy the present rather than wishing I was back in the past.
So, I hope that my experience can help someone out there who feels purposeless in the States. I encourage you to find a support system, to connect with friends, and to realize that you have a purpose right here and right now. You are here for a reason and trust me, you are not alone. If you experience depression, please please please talk to a counselor or someone who can put you in contact with one. It is not a sign of weakness to look for help, but rather a sign of strength. And finally, look to the Lord. He is the true giver of purpose, and He knows you and loves you completely. There is so much hope for you, and I know that while adjustment is hard, it is possible!