Monday, April 13, 2009

Interesting Side Effect #1.

(There may or may not be more than one to report. But maybe this a small series for APoS.)

So, I was aware there would be some changes in my world outlook upon returning from over two months abroad. The ones I expected are not there, and some things I never expected have shown up instead.

Sunny afternoon, I'm standing on the train platform to head downtown. Two young men are standing next to me. They're tall, loud, about 19 years old, swaggering and intimidating people around them. Normally, myself included.

Same afternoon, I'm walking through Chinatown and get approached by a couple panhandlers - probably mentally ill and definitely homeless - and I would normally feel guilty, embarrassed, uncomfortable.

But I find... after living in a place where I could barely communicate... after seeing how stark the line between middle class and working class can be (not to mention the cliff between working class and poverty)... I am wholly unintimidated by pushy, swaggering punk kids. I am observant but not guilt-ridden in the face of poverty. I am, admittedly, a little annoyed at both: the display of false showmanship and the refusal to seek help from a sanctioned [government, charity, etc] source. I find myself saying, "Please. C'mon. Seriously." to things like this, and that may not be the best attitude ever, but it is some sort of rise in confidence and it feels good to not retreat quickly and mysteriously into shame or discomfort, as I used to.

I think this is a lens through which I am seeing the comforts of the United States. The cushions we have for when our neighbors fall. (Far, far from perfect, but far, far from living on a riverbank and bathing, cleaning and defecating there.) I am seeing how much easier it is to just stay home - 'home' being your own country, sure, but also your comfortable routine... be it job, relationship, friendship, sleeping pattern, exercise habit, communication style or anything. It is so hard to leave home, but I'm wont to say, today at least, that it is worth leaving home if only because when you come back - when I come back - you remember what's good about it, what's great about it, and see where you were stuck. And what to bring back from the foreign land.

These days, I am cooking healthier and more consciously, I am eating with awareness and for different reasons. I am getting up earlier and going to bed earlier. I am remembering to read a book everyday, and not just stuff on the computer screen. I am procrastinating less.

But my fuzzy blanket on the couch? That's just pure 'welcome home' and I love it.

Goodnight.

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