I sit here wondering how to start this paragraph.
I’ve been fumbling for a few months, struggling with health, not finding work, finding I fit in less and less where I’m currently living (California) and constantly re-assessing my situation, asking myself questions like “Should I go back to school and get a Master’s?” “Should I find a full-time job here?” “Am I in the right place?” “Should I go back to Congo?”
I feel like I’ve been torn right and left, beaten by the winds, until all that’s left of what used to be a flag are tattered pieces that are unrecognizable. I need to patch myself back up, and I am going back home to do it.
I’ve chewed on this long and hard, I’ve weighed the pros, the cons, and I’ve thought about it so much, I can’t think about it any more. I’ve just come to a point where nothing feels right in my life any more. I don’t see a place for myself in California, in Los Angeles. I don’t feel any attachment to the place, I don’t feel needed, I don’t survey the landscape and see a place where I would fit in, and all I can do is think of Pointe-Noire, and see all the parts that fit and the places where I could be useful.
These last ten years have been a series of new beginnings for me. Finishing college in 1999, embarking on a year-plus of service around the Baha’i world, mostly in Africa, traveling through the Pacific and South East Asia on my way back to Delaware, with a 6-month stopover in Northern California. Then leaving for Israel and a life-changing two and a half years, followed by Paris and a job in the Office of Public Information after a rough period of unemployment, finally moving to Southern California and starting work in video game localization for a large entertainment company.
Now that I look back on my last few years with the cold analytical stare of hindsight, I can see it more clearly. I see that I was plugging myself into these environments, trying to fit in, and not finding my place in Paris, not finding it in Pasadena, not finding it in the non-profit or the corporate worlds, not finding it in the journalism or the software industries. Something was not right, and all the while I kept thinking of home, of my family, of my patch of Africa, that dusty town on the Atlantic coast.
After my visit there in July, I realized that there was somewhere I belonged, somewhere I had a place, an empty seat at the dinner table with my name on a place card, and things started to shift in my thinking. The more I applied to jobs the less I saw myself actually performing the duties involved. The more I searched for positions suited to my skills and interests, the more those skills and interests seemed perfectly served by working in Congo, in my parent’s school, helping develop the English Language Program, designing the first installations of a future Congo Children’s Museum.
I’m not saying the agony of search is over. I’m still feeling anxious and lost, confused, and misdirected, but I’m fumbling towards a direction now, and I’m sketching a plan. I’m leaving December 20th, and my return is planned for three months from then, and I’m planning projects. It’s a start, that’s all I can hope for, but I need to cut myself some slack right now, and stop judging my life on the yardstick of everyone else’s, something I do almost obsessively, because I have the ability to notice and absorb dizzying quantities of information, resumes, qualifications, life stories, CV’s…I fill my head with other people’s life stories and try to insert a cardboard cutout of myself as a university professor, a chiropractor, a Red Cross official in Darfur, a seeing-eye-dog trainer, a forensic anthropologist, an elementary schoolteacher, the owner of a bakery, a movie theater employee, the manager of a greenhouse and nursery, and inserting myself in North Dakota, Denver, Berlin, Turkey, Oregon, New Zealand, anywhere but here, anytime but now, anyway but real. I’m constantly writing myself stories of what I could be doing instead or next, or what I could have ended up doing, and I spend so much time reinventing the past, and inventing the future, and I opened the fridge two weeks ago and thought: “What I really want is a life of adventure. My home is in Congo. What am I doing all the way in Pasadena looking for adventure? It’s time to go home.”
It feels stupid to say things like this on my blog. Like I’m revealing too much of the inner workings of my mind. But I don’t often say what I’m thinking, so I’m chalking this one up to truth and honesty and posting it anyway. It’s how I feel, and it’s what is keeping me up at night.