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The Nostalgia: When Everything Goes Back To ‘Normal’

I remember the first day I got home from a wild journey in Australia. It was the midday of 31st of July 2016. I realised how crowded tiny little Hong Kong was after spending half a year in the largest island in the world. I recalled how thick as Vegemite the Hong Kong air was after enjoying the fresh air and breezy weather for 6 months. The loud crowds, the speedy walks, the frowned eyebrows, the rarely smiled face… The moment I stepped out of the aircraft, it all just came to me – I’m here again.

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Returning home from studying abroad is the strangest thing ever, no matter how homesick you were when you were away. The moment you touch down and unbuckle the seatbelt, it’s the universe telling you, “It’s over. Now get back to your life.” And so I got off the plane, I hugged my parents and my friends, and I went home with them. I looked at their sweet, warm welcoming smiles, heard them saying how much they missed me, yet I just couldn’t help but to feel shameful that I didn’t miss them as much as they missed me.

The first few days would be okay, people are eager to hear you out for all your experiences and gasp when you narrate some of your crazy stories. But then the fraîcheur fades. You may notice that when you begin your sentences with “yeah just like when I was in…” or “In blabla we would…” people start changing the topic ever so slightly to avoid hurting your feeling but subtly telling you they have heard enough – not that they are not happy for you, but life moves on, and so should you.

I went through some hard times when that happened, especially when I inevitably started to compare memories with reality (the present). Whenever I was alone, be it walking on streets or laying down on bed, memories surged and hit me hard. I thought of how the friends I made in Australia and I were having great time just wandering in the city, how experimental and daring they were to try out everything new and bizarre, how simultaneous we all were every day and night. Not for long I then beautified these memories like some of the Sandra Bullock’s movies. Then I looked around, all my old friends were keeping up with their day-to-day practices; people were continuing their lives (and sometimes I bitterly thought, “their boring lives”). I smiled and thanked the cashier, and thought how aloof they were not to engage in chitchat; I strolled around the city and got bumped several times, and thought people here just don’t know how to balance work and life. I felt suffocated in my own city, the city that I was born and raised. I denied admitting that their way is the way people live, while what I was doing was a waste of time to not moving on and not even trying to make the best of it.

But hey, we are all idiots sometimes. Looking back, I’d say it’s totally okay and absolutely normal to feel unfitted at home. Just don’t over do it. No one likes to have a whining biscuit around. After all these time, you’ve acquired your adapting skill living oversea; you’ve overcome all cultural shocks and you survive a complete foreign land. It’s an accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself.

I started going out with the old friends. For once since I got back, I tried not to bring up anything about Australia, and just listened to their lives, joined in the conversations and enjoyed the reunion. Turn out it was not that difficult. And I was no less happy than having fun with the people I met in Australia. You see, sometimes we put ourselves into the cocoon because we hope something could last forever. After experiencing something new and extra-ordinary, seeing how big and fascinating the world is, it’s perfectly fine to feel unsatisfied with your old life. We all need time to adjust ourselves back to the good old place. I’m not saying we should change or abandon our new selves to fit in (hell no, new is always better.) But instead of shutting everything out, try living in the moment and making the best of the ordinary. Then perhaps, who knows, maybe one day you’ll find yourself making a small change around you everyday, or even moving to the city you fell in love with.

What’s important is that the experiences and memories that you have are what make you special. And they will always stay with you.

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Jenn L.

Jenn is a politics student from Hong Kong who has just returned from her exchange semester from China and Australia. She found her interest in travelling since her field trip to Inner Mongolia and took the courage to travel alone when she hit 18. She shares passion in ending poverty and believes in the power of individuals. And without fail, always forgets to drink her tea hot.


One comment

  1. Wow, Jenn, this really resonated with me. As a frequent long-term traveler, I often feel a bit of resentment when I come home to the States because, you’re right, life moves on without you and your friends aren’t interested in hearing another story starting with “When I was in [country]…” I find keeping in touch with the people I met abroad via Whatsapp has been very helpful. Thanks for writing this!

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