And when I say that, I don’t mean it feels like a dream because it was amazing and vitalizing, renewing and enlightening – though it was all of those things for me. When I say dream it’s because it feels as though I’ve woken up and everything around me is still the same. It’s as if the time I was away was only in my mind; I simply fell asleep and awoke to my world exactly how I left it, except I’d completed a significant journey and emerged not only altered, but better.
Yet I’ve emerged and it feels so anticlimactic. The butterflies in my stomach turn and curdle after realizing that my experience is just that – mine. While I want to hold it and cradle it, I also want to share it. I want to connect about it and discuss and continue feeling as excited as I did when it was happening. Three weeks changed my world, but the world I returned to has not changed. Did it even really happen?
The neighborhood looks the same. The little cozy houses illuminate at dusk as they always have, the small silhouetted figures inside slowly moving from one glowing square to the next; the street lights still flicker on, batting the ground with harsh white light; and lines of cars are neatly stacked along the curbs waiting to be taken away from here – and I don’t blame them. Perhaps the only visible change is the thin layer of orange and brown leaves that have gathered around the storm drains like pups to their mother.
The commute to work has not changed. The bus is just as quiet, and much less exciting than the subways I frequented daily. Nameless faces I saw weeks ago still stare dully at Kindles and newspapers, unaware of any change in time – it’s just another Wednesday. The intersections downtown are still speckled with people in bland clothing with blank stares, the traffic lights have the same poor timing, and the air is filled with the never-changing groan of buses and trucks as they climb and wind through the city, probably as bored and unimpressed as I am.
Everything seems much more drab and boring after this vivid dream of mine.
And sadly I need to remind myself: the rest of the world hasn’t changed just because you have.
But it’s hard to think that way. So much has happened that it’s difficult to grasp that it was not universal. September was just another month for most people. Their routine was unchanged, predictable, and business as usual. Nearly every day for you, however, was new and different and challenging. While others were exhausted from work, the usual stresses, and relationships, you were exhausted from miles of wanderings, communicating in different languages, and viewing new places with wide open eyes.
You became accustomed to the constant din of foreign words in your ears, the clacking and swaying of subway cars, navigating unknown towns and cities, and living out of a backpack.
This isn’t most people’s Septembers, but it is for the lucky.
Rather than to slowly follow along with the rest and return to the dull, ordinary, and expected, I must remember this dream – document it, relive it, memorize it – because like most dreams, this memory has the possibility to fade, and that would be a nightmare.