Post Exchange Blues

Desarae 2
Author: Desarae Poier

While I have countless stories of the incredible times I had abroad, lately I’ve struggled with my return home.

I feel like I have a foot in two countries, and am unable to regain my balance. It comes in waves. I was so excited to be back with my friends and family, to return to the Island, my favourite place and chosen home, and the process of settling in was busy and eventful. Now, I’ve been back 2 months, and the hole in my heart where England is becomes more noticeable.

I’m not alone in my feelings. Eureka has opened up about her own complicated emotions regarding being home and feels much of the same as me; a grief of ourselves and our lives there, an overwhelming longing for our exchange friends who are more like family, and a little bit of resentment at the differences between the two places.

Everyone warned about the difficulties of leaving, but the complex feelings of returning home have hit me much harder. Especially recently, the experience of speaking to the excited new outbounds combined with shuffling through my photos for content here has resurfaced underlying feelings, the post exchange blues, if you will. The emotional state of my fellow inbounds and I is deeply complex as we readjust.

I recognize that the experience I had was fleeting, unsustainable, and was always going to end. But seeing my dearest friends return to their respective countries and post their photos from home leaves me missing them dearly. I’m battling time zones, and constantly feel left behind as my friends live their lives while I sleep. The clock on my phone keeps me in touch with three different time zones, but serves as a painful reminder as to how scattered my heart is. I’m not able to travel freely here like I did abroad, and I miss accessible public transit. I am angry over differences outside my control, like the cost of food and flights. I find myself slipping back into Canadian slang, and truly feel like I speak two different types of English when I talk to my UK friends. It’s truly bittersweet, grappling with the need to remain present but wanting to live in the past.

But it comes in waves. Sitting on the beach in the sunshine, or reconnecting to my Canadian history via workshops at VIU rekindles my love for Nanaimo. It is my chosen home, and has been for the past 6 years. I think my connection to the feeling of “home” has changed the most. I am rooted in the people I surround myself with, and recognize that home many be made up of many different places. So anytime I get hit with a wave of longing or loss, I ground myself in the experiences I had, in the love of many friends around the world, and try to remain more present in my new chapter upon returning home.

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