July is the month we say goodbye to writers who are retiring or moving on to new adventures, and this is Katerina’s last post. She has been writing with us since July 2015.

“I am so
Grateful to be here, but it is so
Hard to be here— I feel I am
Inhabiting a stranger’s body: stiff, and
Jetlagged not in hours but in years.” 

– “A is for After

I keep rereading my writing from 2019, back when I first moved to DC and found myself managing the mingled excitement and frustration of being back in a place that was both familiar and disorienting. I knew to be prepared for “reverse culture shock,” but it still hit me hard. 

As pandemic restrictions lift in my city, I find myself struck by some of these same feelings. I know some places in the US have been open for months, while in other countries lockdowns continue and the end of the pandemic could be years away. But where I live, in Washington DC, the freedom to see each other without masks, to eat together, dance together, stay out late—this is all fresh. I attended a long-anticipated gathering and then cried in the car afterward. It is so good to get back into a crowd, but it’s harder and stranger and lonelier than I expected it would be. 

The Art of Coming Home, by Craig Storti, is a book for people returning from time abroad. Storti writes about the ambiguity of “home” when one has been gone for some time. Normally “home,” Storti writes, can be defined by “familiar places, familiar people,” and “routines and predictable patterns of interactions.” But after a year or more away, favorite places might have shut down, loved ones have grown and changed, familiar routines are impossible to recover. 

On my first trip post-vaccination, I met friends’ babies who didn’t exist pre-pandemic. My boyfriend of nine months is a big part of my life—most of my friends have never met him. We may have gone through this pandemic at the same time, but we did not go through it together. Some of us have changed in substantial ways. Some have lost loved ones, some adopted puppies, some struggled with mental health issues, and others moved across the world.  

Storti’s book talks about reentry in stages. The first is the honeymoon stage, when you’re welcomed back by your friends and family, eat your favorite foods and visit your favorite spots. Reverse culture shock hits later—you might feel overwhelmed and judgmental of others who don’t understand or appreciate the ways that you have changed. Your old habits and routines don’t fit in this new place, and you miss them. You don’t know if you fit where you find yourself anymore. 

The third stage of reentry is readjustment, making peace with the ways you have changed. It’s mourning what’s lost, recovering what’s worth saving, and creating new things where that’s possible. Whether we reentered society a long time ago, or have yet to begin, it helps to know what stage you’re in, and it helps to talk about it. I’m eager to talk about it, over coffee or a beer, with music, among people once again.

6 Comments

  1. Sandy Sheppard

    This is encouraging, Kate, for all of us who have been locked down for many months. Thank you. I will really miss your posts, and I wish you the best!

    Reply
  2. Alex Johnson

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts and getting a peek into your life (“A is for After” is one that sticks with me!), especially your honesty with things like reentry. Wishing the best for you as you continue to settle back in!

    Reply
  3. Courtney Zonnefeld

    Thanks for your writing over the last couple years, Kate. I’ll miss reading and pondering your pieces at the beginning of each month.

    What a thoughtful metaphor for pandemic re-entry, too—we’re all revisiting a life we once knew and have lived without for over a year. Your piece captures the bittersweetness and strange exhaustion so well.

    Reply
  4. Nicole (Ludema) Milne

    The past several years as I’ve read your posts on TPC I have felt a kinship with you, your writing style, and many of your thoughts about the world. I will truly miss reading your words every month and wish you all the best as you move forward. Thank you for what you’ve given me (and us as a reader group).

    Reply
  5. Kyric Koning

    Of course this was the subject of your last post. Thoughtful, elegant, touching. You clearly present an experience, leaving enough room for rumination.

    It has been great being able to read your pieces. You were a fantastic start to the month. As you start your new stories, I know you’ll find your place, taking with you where you’re from, what you’ve been and bringing it to where you’re going, what you’re becoming, and where you will find you belong.

    Reply
  6. Jennie Joy

    I’ve enjoyed your thoughts, Katerina. Thanks for sharing them so beautifully with others here.

    Reply

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