CHAPTER 17.4 – Cultural Adjustments

Reverse Culture Shock is real. I had never heard of the idea before, but upon my reentry to the good ol’ USA…I felt the full force. Actually, I arrived about a month before my bedroom would be vacant again so the shock was somewhat postponed as I traveled from house to house and state to state visiting my friends and family. But those first nights back in my bedroom in the busy city of NYC were tough ones. I lay staring at the ceiling in the dark. For the first time in months I was staying still. My empty unpacked bag sat in the corner of the room, a best friend and companion now laid aside. I felt about as empty as the sagging beat up bag looked.

It took me about a week to finally open my closet and understand that I had clothes other than the ones I was accustomed to wearing these past months. And to be honest it was overwhelming when I finally did. I was hit with the deep realization of just how much STUFF I owned. It was a heavy feeling. For 5 months I had only what fit on my back to carry from place to place. And though it was literally on my back, internally I felt very light. Now I was back and felt the urge to purge we shall say. To sell, throw away, or give away about half of my belongings was my goal. So I started posting where ever I could. So much so that about a week into my endeavor one of my friends on social media asked if I was sick, moving, or dying! But let me tell you, with each item that leaves my life, I feel more and more room open up inside of me. Room to move, room to breathe, and room to relieve myself of mental burdens.

Here is what I do. I look at an item. I ask myself if I can live without it. I ask myself if in the past year I have even looked at it before this moment. And as I answered myself, I saw that MOST of what I own has been sitting there taking up room not only in my ROOM, but in my LIFE! Now I wouldn’t say that I have been a hoarder, but I am one to like options. So what I used to say to myself in the past was, “But what if I happen to need this in the future?! What if that pair of shoes are just the pair I need next week?” Never mind that I probably wouldn’t have even remembered they were buried in my closet had I not gone looking to clean it.

Now I am freeing myself from that mentality. Instead, I ask if it is worth the weight. If I had to literally carry that thing on my back, would it carry as much value. And most of the time it wouldn’t.

We have a lot of stuff in this country. Maybe that is the point. That we can afford it. Even when we can’t afford it, we are offered 3.9% APR for the joy of being able to afford it. And joy it is, for about 3.9 seconds. Until 4 seconds later we realize that the high is gone and the debt is real.

Stuff Defined. A group or pile of things. Yep Webster’s that about sums it up. Lots of stuff, cluttering my life. A source of comfort. A source of meaning sometimes even. Maybe even pride if I think about it.

But here is the beauty of it. I don’t need stuff to appreciate myself. I don’t need it to appreciate you. And I definitely don’t need it to appreciate the beauty of this earth. As I stood looking up at the universe from the sand dunes of Jordan, or gazing at the sun lit valleys from the top of the Alps, or the technicolor sunset as I swam in the waters of Cinque Terre, I did not miss the beauty of “stuff”. Instead my mind was content and focused on this memory in front of me. To pile that inside of me instead. And we don’t need to travel the world to find it. We have access to the stuff that is important, with or without the permission of CapitalOne.

We have each other.

Written By

New Yorker, photographer, blogger, and life time dreamer.