Settling in right after I got back from Hawaii initially felt so good. I’m not moving on! I’m still here! No new starts, I know this place, I get to stay another half a year. But that quickly dissipated to the realization that most of the consistency I knew had indeed shifted. New house, new flatmates and all the old study abroad ones I had grown so close to gone. No more Georgia (gosh I miss her), new placement, new classes, new pedagogy.
There has since been a whiplash where I’m realizing that leaving Hawaii has also been hard, for a few reasons:
1) The Compton Clan. Miss them heaps. More than I would had I not gotten good family time
2) America, kind of. Hawaii’s tropical vibes don’t scream America, but enough Americans visit that I felt like I was home. It was really refreshing to be back in a culture that I “get.”
3) Sunshine and Vitamin D
The weather sucks right now. It’s actually been a pretty mild winter, but New Zealand houses are notorious for terrible insulation, and we only have heating in the main part of the house. So I have two comforters and snuggle up with my red hot water bottle just like Ricky Baker in Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Now my second all-time favorite movie – it is hilarious and epitomizes kiwi culture; go see it people). When I wake up in the morning, I may have had a full night’s sleep, but unravelling from my cozy cocoon of a bed to get dressed in a freezing room is a real battle. The days are short and often grey and wet. I sensed that I didn’t feel quite as cheerful as usual, but I also know that I probably have a little bit of SAD – seasonal affective disorder. It really bit me in the butt spring semester senior year.
I’ve acknowledged that gloominess and told myself to just feel it as it comes. I also tell myself to keep moving and do things I know are good for me – exercising, talking with friends, going to dance and life group and staying on top of schoolwork (except for that one looming assignment, which could also be contributing to this funk). But each week, nothing is changing. It’s getting worse, and I think it’s more than the weather, it’s more than just an off day.
It’s everyday, and the busy-ness that I force myself into is just a bandaid for deeper issues that aren’t healing. I can keep moving, I can be productive. But all the things that usually bring me joy, it’s like an ice bucket has been poured over my life and the happiness can’t ignite.I’ve resorted to the daily rudimentary tasks I know I’m capable of, like the necessity of food – grocery shopping, cooking, eating. Or going on a walk, or reading all my email. I finally had one of those unjustifiable, let-it-all-out cries tonight. What is going on? What do I feel – or not feel? This isn’t me! I’m pretty sure this is a mild dose of depression.
In the last couple of months, I’ve decided to go back home come December. I love my family and friends too much to be away from them longer than a year. Maybe I was trying to prove that I’m independent enough to be on my own in another country, make my own way. I guess I can, but it’s really tough, too. I don’t know what I was thinking when I envisioned teaching ESOL long-term abroad. It’s hard work to overcome cultural discrepancies and find a life in a new place. I was kind of fighting being South Carolina-bound, but it’s where my heart is yearning.
That decision definitely changed my mindset. I’m not trying to make New Zealand home anymore. That’s a relief, but I’m also a lot less present-minded. When you know you’re heading somewhere else, your behavior adjusts accordingly. You start checking out a little bit. I’m disillusioned and a bit burnt out with much of my coursework; part of that is wondering how much of it is in a New Zealand context and how much will apply in the States.
Over the weekend I went to Hanmer Springs with UCanDance. I want to write about that experience, because I usually love dance. But I also feel like I’d be lying to say it was great, because I’m stuck in this awful funk where everything is just “meh.”
And then positive inner voice Jessica says: BUT YOU’RE IN NEW ZEALAND!
Sad Jessica: And I miss America and my friends.
Positive: Nothing is actually wrong.
Sad: But I need that community of love and support.
Positive: You’ve got free time and opportunities to try new things.
Sad: I don’t want to.
Positive: Get out of the house. Talk to your flatmate. Pray. Do your assessment.
Sad: Please let me escape.
On and on it goes. I know this is a seasonal slump. I know God walks with me through these valleys, that He is the giver of good gifts, that His plans are right, New Zealand is right. I’m supposed to be here now. Sad Jessica will not win (She feels a little conquered writing this post, and I look back and wonder if that really is how I feel). Which is indicative of my honest response when people ask how I’m doing – lots of small ups and downs. Nothing is wrong per se, but it’s definitely wrong enough to not be right.
I’ve been returning to the chorus lyrics of one of my favorite artists, Josh Garrels:
It’s gonna be alright
Turn around and let back in the light
And joy will come
Like a bird in the morning sun
And all will be made well
In our brokenness, we’re finally helpless enough to admit that our sadness, or pain, or hardship, or anger, or broken relationships – it’s not how life should be. And if we are willing to turn to Jesus, there is solace. In a month or two, the weather will turn. Hopefully I will have a renewed outlook and be back up to speed by then (or sooner?!). Regardless of how I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, I’m thankful for the hope I have in a greater restoration. Jesus offers redemption to his children everyday; He is way bigger and better and more perfect than this small hurting. Someday, there will not be any more tears or sadness, it will be like the morning light of creation. It will all be made right.