Well, I’ve booked a ticket – the countdown is officially on for leaving Amman. It still doesn’t feel real yet – it feels real in the sense that I’m packing and my house gets more bare with each passing week, but it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be coming back after a few weeks in the US.
But most of all, I can say that going back to the US is way, way scarier than moving to the Middle East ever was. I’m not sure if I’m just getting older, but going back to the US without a job lined up (I’m interviewing and trying not to lose hope), facing the realities of having to get health insurance and a car and wondering how I’ll get an apartment as a freelancer if this job hunt takes a long time, and not wanting to have a lease in case I have to move – is all, frankly, terrifying. In Jordan and Turkey, I’ve never been that worried about money, and always felt I had a family safety net to keep me from going homeless or something. Those things are mostly true for the US, but I feel more compelled to get settled there quickly – I can’t afford to be moving between cities all the time in the US.
Like I said, it’s hard to shake the mentality that I’ll be in the US for longer than a few weeks’ visit. For example, I’ve already placed an order to Uniqlo to arrive at my mom’s house in advance, in my head I need to still stock up at Trader Joe’s, and I’m trying to restrain myself from anymore online shopping, reminding myself that I’ll have plenty of time to actually go to these stores in person once I’m there. So, what will I do in the meantime, until I figure out where I’m going to settle?
I’m heading to my mom’s house in Las Vegas first, where I plan to get my bearings, go through kitchen stuff I left at her house four years ago, and keep applying for jobs. I plan on getting a bike and taking it to Red Rock Canyon, Zion National Park, Mount Charleston, and other favorite places in the southwest.
With any luck, during the last week of September I’ll hopefully still be going to Germany again for another in-person segment for my master’s program – and I’m plotting an Iceland stopover along the way. With a lot of luck, I’ll hopefully finally have an in person meeting for a job in Chicago, and in any case, I hope to visit one of my good friends who lives there. Then there are always more friends to visit in California and Oregon and family in Louisiana. And since Layth most likely has to go to Turkey for 10 days for work before I leave, I may just tag along for a few days for one last Istanbul trip.
I have to play things by ear – so much is up in the air – but I also plan to buy a car within a month or so of arriving. Since I’ll most likely be moving away from Las Vegas soon enough, I think moving by car will be easier than flying with all my luggage again and shipping boxes. Plus I’ll need transportation if I’m doing freelance work in the meantime.
I’m full of emotions – impatience, anxiety, fear, sadness, even guilt somehow – every time I start packing or start talking about this with Layth, I start crying. But I think it’s the right thing to do, and even in my worst case scenario for the next three months, things look alright. I have plenty to be happy and excited about.
Bearing in mind my budget, and the fact that anything I buy at this point has to move with me, I’m trying to be strategic with my purchases. The things I ordered from Uniqlo are replacing some similar, worn-out items that I’ll leave behind here (no use in moving old shirts with pit stains or bleach spots, just sayin’), along with a basic little black dress (I get to wear dresses again!) and a couple work-related items. I spontaneously bought some peacock espadrilles from Kanna last week, so the only clothing items I am letting myself buy the next few months are a fleece zip-up from Patagonia (I don’t have any sort of jacket like this and I’ve been talking myself out of buying this one for 5 years), another fall/winter jacket (which will depend where I end up living), and possibly some snow or rain boots (again depending on the climate). But by far my favorite purchase I’ve made recently is my Blundstone all-weather work boots, which have already seen me through trips in Europe and visits to Za’atari Refugee Camp. Best shoes ever.
I don’t have the patience to lay out every item of clothing I have for a blog post, but the Closet app I have on my phone generates these handy outfit combinations. I have about 40 items for warm weather and 40 for cold weather, switching out a few things here and there during transitional periods (like when I’m still sweating in a cardigan in September, trying to summon cold weather). Overall, I feel good about the relatively limited amount of clothing I own, and this is a good reminder that there are hundreds of combinations to make with it (granted, not all of them look good). It also especially helps to keep this stuff simple when you’re moving or traveling a lot.
See ya soon, America – and stay tuned for the follow-up reverse culture shock post.