Two summers ago, I returned home from my travels in Southeast Asia. I was emotionally exhausted but ready to take on the new challenges in a move to Asia. My friend and I went for a walk at Garry Point, a nearby park not too far from where I live.
It was there that I told her about my Malaysian plans. I wasn’t nervous yet, but I knew I would be. She pointed out that I had nothing to worry about.
“What’s the worst that could happen? You can always come back.”
She was right of course. If I didn’t like it or things didn’t work out, I could always come back. But I knew that there was a bigger problem: I did not want to come back. Once I left, it felt like there was no turning back.
Call it fate, destiny or whatever you want, but I found my way back in Vancouver much sooner than I expected. In some ways, I was hopeful that I would feel better after spending some time in Malaysia. I told everyone that I would “see how things go”. Unfortunately, it felt like I was biding my time.
People would often ask, “how is it being back?” I usually tried to give an honest answer.
“Work is good but the rest is meh.”
And it was true. I was enjoying my time learning programming and working on let’s chill. Beyond that, I knew I wasn’t here by choice; I was here because I didn’t have anywhere else to go yet. I had completely lost my sense of home.
The feeling was not entirely foreign to me but it seemed to hit a lot harder this time. Like a mix of culture shock and depression. While at first glance, you might think that this is related to the fact that I was forced to come “home”, it definitely was not.
But what gives you a sense of home?
Is it friends? Is it family? Is it where you hold memories about growing up?
The way I see it, home has little to do with the place. Home is the feeling you get when you have a sense of belonging. To me, this feeling seems largely related to how connected you feel with the people around you and how you relate to the environment and personality of the city.
If that was how I defined a sense of home, then it is obvious I find it difficult to relate to the people and environment anymore. Since coming back, I have been fairly disinterested to invest in anything that ties me to the city, be it in my personal relationships or career investments. Perhaps, I can pinpoint this due to past experiences (old and recent) but also because my environment has changed a lot in the past few years. Everything felt stale. Combine it all together, and I was screaming for a change in scenery.
While on my Southeast Asia travels, a fellow traveler sympathized with my feelings.
“Sometimes you need a change in scenery. It can be a good thing.”
I don’t think many people will understand how this feels but it has generally made me anti social. Other than through let’s chill, I haven’t called many people out since I’ve been back. It has been very much a “if they want to see me, they can find me” mentality. Not surprisingly, I have left my goodbyes for anybody that wants to find me.
Those that are firm believers in internal happiness for everything would suggest to change your attitude towards the environment. After all, everything is how you perceive it, so they say. Yes and no. There are times it is merely a change in attitude and there are other times, you should act on changing your situation. Life is simpler than we make it. Since I am not happy with my situation, I have acted on changing it.
Although Malaysia was not a “success”, I am confident as ever that my commitment to learning and exploring abroad will lead me to more happiness, and once more, a sense of home. For those who also feel this way, I encourage you to do the same.
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