Where to even begin.
I’ve been home from the Race for 2 weeks now. 2 long and weird weeks.
As I was coming home, I was not feeling super excited to be home. But I also didn’t have this yearning for the Race to continue. I felt like it was just about time, and that was something I just had to accept.
For me it helped that I had to catch a pretty quick connecting flight, so I had no time to really think about leaving the field. I mean, we were all gonna be together until JFK anyway!
When we landed, I went into full logistics mode. Except I only had to worry about myself. First strange feeling of re-entry, not being in charge of the entire squad. But I didn’t have time to think about it.
I ran through customs, hurdled through baggage claim, checked back in for my next flight, carefully hurried through security, and then did a wind sprint through to my flight. Then I landed, went through to my next gate, got on the next flight (which was delayed), then I landed and..
.. Suddenly I was home.
Back in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The first day was like I was coming out of some kind of anesthesia. I was enthralled by ridiculous things like new cars, new businesses, technology I’d never seen, the ability to drive, a bed to myself, consistent wifi, the awful Mississippi summer weather, all my old stuff in my room, a giant kitchen, my own bathroom and a free schedule.
But then the loneliness hit. And in some of the weirdest places.
On a drive around town. In the middle of Petsmart. At church.
It was like I thought I could turn the corner and the whole squad would be just sitting there, and we’d all laugh and head to ministry. But of course that didn’t happen.
I felt like no matter how many people were around me, I was completely by myself. Living in constant community for 11 months makes you pretty dependent on that community. You become entirely comfortable in that environment. Which is funny since that’s the one thing you have to adjust to most.
So being without W squad was incredibly difficult for me, especially in the first week. But that’s not all.
I felt like an alien in my hometown. I’ve undergone a long list of changes in a lot of different ways. But being home, it made me feel like I needed to be who I was. So I can fit back into life or something. I was not some horrible person before the Race, mind you, but I was just different. And I felt this pressure (not entirely sure if I made it up, or it was coming from other people), to be the “old Seth.”
That feeling is hard.
And I responded in what seemed like the safest way to me. Not doing ANYTHING. I barely left the house. I would go places either in the early morning or late at night, so I could avoid running into people I knew. I simply didn’t want to have the conversations. Didn’t want to talk about the Race superficially. Didn’t want to throw on my best fake smile and pretend like I wasn’t still pretty freaked out about being home. I remember that when I did run into people I was actually nervous. I would look down and see my hands shaking. I have no idea why!
So I stayed at home. I was a world class hermit. Maybe one of the top 10 hermits in the U.S. for that first week.
But slowly, I came out of my hole. I talked to my squad mates and saw how they were doing. We talked about what we were each dealing with. That made me realize I wasn’t alone in this craziness. Then I started hanging out with my best friends, and being social for a change. That brought me further out the hole.
I started finding my passion and drive for certain things again. Started finding goals I wanted to reach. Started get back in the rhythm of American life. I started doing things, leaving the house at regular times of day, and reaching out to people from home.
I started adjusting.
Cut to now. The end of my first 2 weeks back in America. I’m by no means who I was, but I am also not taking it out on the U.S. I’m using what I learned on the Race and the person I’ve become to move towards new goals.
In our re-entry packets they say the best thing you can do is integrate back into society. Using what you’ve learned to not reject your culture or assimilate back into it.
So here I am, trying my hardest to integrate. And not doing that bad of a job, if I do say so myself. I’ve actually started sitting in coffee shops! And having real, human interactions!
I guess the take-home message here is this, give us missionaries some grace. We’re working through a lot to figure all of this out. It’s not nearly as easy as just coming home. But know we’re trying. We might just need a little time.
It’s not like we were an entirely normal group of people anyway.