Monday, August 9, 2010

Reverse Culture Shock

Culture Shock
I didn’t feel like I had that much culture shock when I got to Uganda, I was seeing a lot of things I expected to see and looking at things in a critical way as a photographer.  Sure I definitely faced some but not as much as I have found myself experiencing reverse culture shock. I wish it was the other way because coming home and facing this reverse effect has been difficult and strange. While I am so happy to be back, I can’t help but feel torn. Guilty for leaving, for having all the things in life that I have, and a hundred things that I don’t even need. I had 7 outfits in Uganda, I didn’t wear makeup or jewelry, and I carried a backpack around. Coming home and seeing a bag of makeup was scary. I felt overwhelmed by my options and found it easier to just not deal with it. I got some earrings while in Uganda, and when I opened my jewelry box to put them in I felt nauseous by all my options. I have so much. I know this doesn’t make me a bad person, that we work and have things because we can and because it makes us happy, but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by all of the things I have. They all seemed unimportant and like a burden at that moment. I’m sure this will change in me again, I will go back to enjoying these things and wanting them, but right now its strange and seems unnecessary to me, it’s a weird feeling.

Getting myself back into the city life is another story. In my home I am safe, its mine, I don’t have to see or experience the attitudes of other people. Walking back onto the streets of New York is an entirely different story. Just going out to get coffee and a muffin with Kevin on Saturday while on the way to the dog park was a challenge. I cried after getting my coffee. I could have cried in the shop but I held myself together. I can’t say exactly what I was crying over either. How nice everything is, how many options I have, just how elaborate and expensive looking things are. How people that don’t know what I know, or haven’t seen the things I’ve seen most likely surround me. I felt so alone in that moment standing in the coffee shop and I guess that’s why I cried. Because I cant get those faces out of my head and someone else doesn’t even know they exist, and how much help they need. Instead we are getting coffees and have many other concerns.  This is no fault to anyone else of course. I was warned that it would feel like a dream. That I would come back with this life changing experience and everyone else would be the way they were and everything will exist as it did before I left, except that I would be changed. My former concerns in life seem so small, for the most part problems I thought I had before don’t even seem like problems anymore. I don’t think I can ever complain again about not having money or being broke. I will never truly know what that is. And probably none of us will. Despite we may have $20 in our bank account more than likely another check is coming around and even if it wasn’t, we would have someone to lean on. That is a luxury.  My first day back at work was good. I was nervous that I would want to kill the people that populate SoHo or that I would get overwhelmed by questions.  It was a peaceful day though and im grateful for that. I shared stories with those that were interested and didn’t feel as vulnerable as I worried I might be. It’s hard to spill all of this on a person. It takes a lot of energy to acknowledge, process and then talk about it. I felt myself at times wanting to turn into a ball at first but the more I spoke about my experience the easier it became. It was good to show people the light and hope it brought into me, rather than the tears.  But I wont lie, coming back was tough, just ask Kevin who watched me just sit in bed crying, crying over coffee, crying over everything that whole weekend.  I think it was important for me though. I let it all in, and I let it absorb into this life I have here, trying to find a way to live with the things that are now a part of me. It is all a part of the journey that I would never take back.

-Michelle Johnson

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