Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jet Lag.

Let me preface this by expressing my disbelief in realizing that I have been living outside of the country for THREE years now. Three. Last time I was living in the States full time, neither Beyonce nor Prince William had children. The Hunger Games hadn't hit theaters yet, 50 Shades of Grey had just begun creating international scandal, and Call Me Maybe had been stuck in people's heads for about three months.

Three YEARS.

I've experienced the whole spectrum of culture related emotions in those three years-- some more than others. I've been in awe of the beautiful countries I've lived in, I've been frustrated when things aren't as easy as they are back in the States, I've pushed outside of my comfort zone and been absolutely elated to do so, I've been so mad that the only adequate way to express myself is through tears. Lots of tears.

Not only have my emotions really been through the ringer, but I've added so many experiences to my list of "one time, when I lived in Honduras/ Brazil" stories. I've eaten fish eye balls and chicken hearts, I've completed a Color Run, I've seen one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and gone barefoot for One Day Without Shoes in two different continents.

I've also become well-acquainted with culture shock, reverse culture shock, and jet lag. Better friends than I had ever hoped, actually.

Reverse culture shock and I are not good friends. Really. I spend 11 months out of the year away from my family and then the one month I am home crying because I miss my friends and can't handle being back in the United States.

I felt so guilty for it. I desperately wanted to enjoy my time in Ohio. I wanted to soak up late nights with my friends and family and embrace every opportunity to hang out that came my way. But the reality was that a day didn't pass without tears and on some days I could hardly even get out of bed. The prospect of going home was always a blend of happiness to be seeing my family and friends again and dread of the crappy mod swings headed my way.

I knew that what I was feeling wasn't completely irrational. I would trade dirt roads and two lane highways for Wal-Mart SuperStores and subdivisions in a matter of hours. Not only were my physical surroundings different, but my heart was also different. In my search to validate my feelings, I found this article, Jet Leg and Heart Lag by Rachel Pieh Jones, in which she puts a definition to my anxiousness and sadness upon returning home-- heart lag.

Everyone is familiar with jet lag, whether it be by experience or just the word. You change physical locations and time zones and your body physically takes time to catch up. Heart lag is the same concept except it's the time that your heart needs to catch up when trading one home for another.

I've heard that a good rule for figuring out jet lag is to give yourself one day to recover for every hour of time difference. So since there's a three hour time difference between Ohio and Rio, I could expect to be feeling the effects of jet lag for three days. I don't know how accurate this actually is, but its a nice, clean cut equation. As a math teacher, I can appreciate the equation. As someone who constantly has to know what is going on, I can really jive with knowing exactly how long until I start to feel like myself again. But, of course, heart lag doesn't come with a nice equation. There's no WikiAnswers answering the question "When will I feel whole again? When will I be normal?"

So, like many other things, I take it one day at a time. Sometimes I jump back into life in Rio/ Ohio/ Sigua with both feet. Other times it takes my body a week to catch up. Sometimes the tears come out of nowhere and don't stop. Other times I don't see tears for weeks.

Culture shock, jet lag, heart lag-- we've become fast friends and yet their arrival still startles me every time.

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