Let’s backtrack a bit. I stepped back onto US soil on June 26th. After 14 hours in the air and 5.5 hours in airports, I made it to JFK airport at 11:53pm. I was tired, smelly and sore which equates to grumpy gills. Not even going to lie, one of the greatest pleasures is stepping back into the US knowing that you have a US passport and can go through the expedited citizens line. And let me tell you, being a solo traveler makes the processes even more speedy. I can zip through the immense line of Asian tourists like a boss! So, I zipped and zagged and pushed my way through the doors into the summer heat of the New York City night.
As soon as I hit US soil, I was struck by four observations: First, I was shocked by all of the English. I guess my Spidey senses were on Spanish mode for so long, especially in public places that all of the English was overload. I even told the immigration agent Gracias when he handed back my passport because it’s second nature now.
Second, Americans can be as rude as we are stereotyped to be. Albeit, I was in New York City, which is rude in overdrive, but holy shit! I heard more racial slurs and angry tones in the span of the twenty minutes it took to go from plane to Uber than I had in my entire time in Uruguay. The “go back to where you came from” attitude is very much alive in the JFK airport. While waiting in line for an Uber, a lady pulls up and starts cursing out the traffic cop – “You can’t tell me what to do. You aren’t the police. You can’t tell me where to go!” – Lady, this poor man’s job is LITERALLY to tell you what to do and where to go. Fuckin’ Creep! My New Yorker anxiety and disdain returned instantly. In Uruguay, when the plane lands, everyone claps. A job well done. In the United States, we sigh in exasperation because the doors aren’t open quickly enough for us to get off the god-forsaken plane. Tranquilo, peoples. Tranquilo!
My third observation is one that I have been struggling with all year in Uruguay. Americans want things NOW. Worse, we want it right and we want it now. And especially in New York, if you cannot deliver the right and now, you are finished. So, baristas get faster, Ubers become plentiful, and glasses get refilled immediately. I drink like a camel. If a glass is filled in front of me, it gets sucked down, especially if there is a straw. We went to this diner and my tea never went empty. I had to pee for days! All the guy had to do was stop filling my iced tea, but the fear of the American keeps that pitcher well within reach. In Uruguay I waited 37 minutes for a freaking cup of coffee at the brand new and only Starbucks. I almost exploded from frustration. If a cup of coffee takes more than five minutes in New York city, you are fired. Period. This Right and Now explains so much about our consumerism obsession in the United States.
My final observation is people are generally nice. The crazies are always the loudest. And that’s on both sides of the coin. Social media, news, even on the streets – the crazy loud ones seem to be the ones who define us. We have a lot of people in the US, but most are so afraid about making a scene or being perceived as the crazy ones that they keep their heads down and their earphones in, staring straight ahead. We are quite similar to Uruguayans in this sense. Stay out of my business, crazy socialist or tea party member, and I won’t tell you that you are being an asshole. I think that is one of our biggest problems right now. We are so afraid to confront the crazy because perhaps we will be perceived as crazy that the crazy thinks they have won. However, I met some really cool people all over New York just because I initiated the conversation. People were more than willing to talk and tell their stories. I texted my brother, “New Yorkers really are nice” and got a response of “said no one ever.” I don’t disagree that there are crazy ass people, especially in the United States. And logically engaging with said people is nearly if not completely impossible. But I believe to my core that Americans actually like to engage in open dialogue more than people and countries give them credit for. I think everyone is a storyteller, but we are asking for the wrong stories. Hence, Humans of New York. I’m not naïve to the bad, but I do see a lot more good spread throughout this country, even in New York City.
Before we left Uruguay, my friend told me that going home could be very isolating. She had been home for Christmas, but this was my first time. And she was absolutely right. My brain was living in two worlds the entire time I was in the states. No matter how many stories and pictures I can share with people, they simply don’t understand my life. My family did a bit because they had the opportunity to come visit my new home, but most of my friends cannot fully comprehend this new place I call home. They don’t know my new friends. They don’t understand my daily routine. And they think it’s funny that I unintentionally used Spanglish the entire time. I felt like I was in Stranger Things, only the United States was the upside-down world (RIP, Barb). I cannot tell you how many times I thanked cashiers in Spanish, quickly catching myself and switching back to English. And I’m not even that proficient yet for it to make sense. Jesus, what’s going to happen when I actually know Spanish?! But every time I Spanglished to a complete stranger I wanted to explain. I’m not here. This isn’t my place anymore. I live in a country where you would be speaking to me in Spanish and I am the weirdo trying to figure it out. Please, why can’t you understand this?! I think that is the most isolating of all – knowing other people simply don’t know. Does this get easier? As I move country to country, will it be more normal to be the abnormal, especially in my birth country?
I have lived away from my family since I was 17. Yes, Uruguay is waaaaayyyy farther away, but I have missed plenty of birthdays and holidays over the years. That stuff doesn’t bother me as much. What bothered me the most was missing things in Nashville. Missing milestones of my people. Neel and Terra are having a baby girl in January. I have to wait six whole months to hold that precious baby! Friends are taking new jobs and breaking up with boyfriends and I’m not there to say this job is awesome and tattoo face should NEVER have been an option. On top of that, I stupidly picked up a Nashville Scene. All of the concerts and events that I am missing almost put me into a downward spiral of doom. I miss the hell out of that city and the chosen family that I found there. That was the hardest place to leave the first time and this time was no different. Many tears were shed in my two days there. And this is the first-year mark. What happens when I’m away for two years, three, four, ten? Friends begged me to come back. And as much as my heartstrings vibrated with grief, I know that I made the right decision. But the emotional backlash and fear of missing out will be something I will have to deal with for years to come.
All-in-all it was a good trip back to the states. My decision to leave and make a new path for myself was reaffirmed. People whom I love will remain in my life despite the distance. Sharing my UAS yearbook with people and looking at the faces that have warmed my heart (both students and colleague) just proves that I am exactly where I need to be. And I did this trip right. I started in New York, a city that I absolutely love that holds a person whom I love. And I didn’t want to leave, but Nashville was calling. So, I got on a plane and made my way to the first place I consider my adult home. And there are my people. My beautifully amazing people in my beautifully vibrant city. And I didn’t want to leave, but I wanted a Mommy head scratch and a Daddy dinner date. So, I got on a plane to San Antonio. And it isn’t my favorite city in the world, but it has the people who unconditionally love and support me. And I didn’t want to leave them, but a Colombian adventure was calling. So, I got on a plane and slept on an airport floor because I want to see the world. And I probably won’t want to leave Colombia either, but Uruguay will be calling my name to return to normalcy. So, I’ll get on a plane and head to the place I now call home. And year number two will start. And all will be right.