After a 25-hour flight, walking down the corridor with swollen ankles and a tired head, I am greeted by things that feel, that are familiar:
The simplicity and clarity of Finnish design, mostly using wood as the main material – one of the great resources we have plenty of.
The sweet, intoxicating smell of cinnamon buns at the café – one of the desserts I’ve missed the most because no other place in the world makes cinnamon buns the way we do in the Nordic countries.
The taste and smell of Finnish filter coffee (especially after drinking mostly instant coffee since Australia).
All these things greet me with their familiarity and I welcome them, thinking to myself as I enjoy the wet and foggy landscape on the train ride to the city centre: I’ll make this work.
Then the jet lag hits me.
The first day everything goes well despite only a few hours of sleep on the flight, but the day after that, I struggle to stay awake. I decide to go to bed early, only to wake up three hours later, at one o’clock in the night to realize I’m alert and awake like a nocturnal animal. I try reading, and have to force myself to at least rest after two hours of page-turning.
Days after that, I get headaches. I find it hard to concentrate. I get no writing done and for every day that passes without words, it feels even harder to open any of the files I felt so inspired by in New Zealand.
It becomes a pattern.
Slowly, it feels like everything I believed in in New Zealand loses its value. The short story I’ve been working on, the longer fan fiction story, the ideas I wrote down while living on the other side of the globe. It doesn’t seem like they are going anywhere, not anymore.
My remedy? I ask Netflix to play the next episode of Anne With an E. I check Whatsapp for new messages in a writing group I was added to (which is, actually, awesome). I update my email over and over again to see if something’s happening and when something is, I close the app and decide to do something else.
I feel conflicted about meeting friends and family because I don’t know what to say to them. For them, six months have gone by quickly as life as we know it has been happening. For me, for us, the past six months have been a lifetime. Now, I’m supposed to have a plan. People expect us to have a plan.
And I do, or at least I did. But everything that felt right in New Zealand… It feels like I lost it somewhere during those 25 hours. It’s like the change in environment has affected me more than I realized.
I do believe this is only temporary and that the inspiration and motivation and energy for doing things are somewhere there, hidden in the back of my mind. But instead of giving myself the time to land, to ease into being in Finland again, I keep beating myself up for binge-watching Netflix, reading for hours, avoiding contact with people I know – and not writing.
It’s nice to come home but it isn’t as simple as I had thought.
In 2016, after my exchange semester in Ireland, I was happy to come back and had no problems with it. Now, it seems different. I wonder if what I’m feeling is fear – fear of actually starting to do things that seem meaningful to me? Writing and publishing a book, maybe getting started with that idea about youngsters and reading.
If it is fear, I think it’s a good sign. That usually means you’re on the right path, despite the fact that resistance tries to keep you from not acting. I think I just have to give myself a few more days to get used to the cold weather and the fact that this country is the place where I have decided to actualize my dreams.
It’s not easy but it is definitely the right thing to do. Then, hopefully, I will be able to get my hands dirty (or my fingers sore from all the writing).