Identity Shock

When you go back to places you have been, you have a chance to see who you were, the places you loved, the people who mattered, and reflect on who you used to be. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to recapture the past, of trying to be that person again for a moment. The trap, that idea hadn’t occurred to me until I wrote it.

Being here means I can see and do many things, things I once loved, things I still love. I can become that person again, for a moment, but it’s not really a trap for me. I’ve been away for a year, and that was long enough to truly miss so many people and places. It doesn’t take long to burn out on all of it again, to overload on nostalgia and food, and even conversation.

The conversation is the weirdest part, the connections that have become so week. There is almost a desperation to my speech, so many things I have wanted to say that I find myself tripping over my words. Worse, I find myself not listening, just waiting for my turn to talk. That is a difficult thing, to remember what I have to say while still being open to listening.

I went to San Diego, Los Angeles, Escondido, back up to Pamona, and finished my trip back at home, in Chula Vista. I grew up next door to where I’m staying, lived there for 17 years, and I’ve known these people all of my life. I’ve seen friends I worked with, fought with, forgotten and remembered, and people who have become family more than anything. There has been food and laughter, but I can feel the time I’ve been gone, and the time that I will be gone.

Seeing who my friends were is strange. I wonder if it represents who I am as much as who I was. I still connect to them, in laughter and pain, but I am something else now too. I don’t really understand what that means yet, but I’m sure I’ll be working on it for years.

Whenever I return home, there is always some culture shock, things I’ve forgotten or took for granted when they were common. This time it was more surprise than anything, the joy of finding things that I’d forgotten. In Mexico, I could come back any time, so being gone a year is a difficult thing to know until I’d experienced it.

The stranger thing is the identity shock. Sometimes it’s the realization that the world moved on without me. Sometimes it’s the realization that fragments of my life before just irritate me now, things I’d tolerated, or even enjoyed. There is some part of me that wants the world to wait for me, for nothing to change if I am not there. If I turn my head, the world ceases to exist.

The reality is that presence matters. People appreciate me when I’m around, or don’t, but their world doesn’t stop without me. They may notice, but life never really gives us the time to look back. We do it, but every glimpse has a price. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not.

I’m glad to be back, and glad to go back to Mexico. Few people have the luxury of stopping for a few months to look around, and I’m sure it won’t last as long as I’d like. I’m actually glad it won’t.


This entry was posted in 2017-03, San Diego, San Francisco, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Identity Shock

  1. sea2seasea says:

    I understand. I’ve done that in many places, and it’s always strange to see how things are the same and different, both at the same time


  2. Bill says:

    It was good seeing you here. You are right, our lives
    go on without you, but we are enriched by you,
    whether you are with us or not. THIS friend will be here
    for you, whenever you come back.
    I resoect your journey, James. I’m glad to see you growing
    into whoever you are going to become, and I envy you the journey.
    I suspect that, ultimately, you will become the person you have
    always been.
    Like you, having tried myself, I find that I can’t really go back
    and fit into my old life. I’ve just outgrown it, but seeing it again,
    I appreciate how it made me who I am. Come back any time you
    feel like a visit- I’ll always be happy to see you.


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