Christina Zastrow

The Long Way Home

May your life be as rich as the darkest of chocolates

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Today is my favorite holiday, but also one that is only celebrated in America – Independence Day. I make it a habit every year of reading the Declaration of Independence, trying to learn something new about my country, and enjoying a display of fireworks with my friends.

Of course this year I am halfway around the world, with friends who are from multiple countries.

And I’ve got a lot on my mind this year.

I’ve signed a new contract, with a new school, to teach high school here in Beijing for the next two years.

I’ve ended a relationship with someone I considered to be part of my definition of home.

I’m preparing for a short sojourn back to America in a few weeks, but this time I feel even less connected to Chicago. I made some mistakes in who I trusted and I let someone badger me into decisions that I think cost me a few valuable friendships.

Home is an increasingly ephemeral concept to me these days. My perspective on life is more global and less settled than ever before. Connections to my place of birth are slowly fading and I grow more entangled with the life I’ve built for myself.

There’s another date of note coming up for me in the next few days. American Independence is also a day where I traditionally examine the course of my life, decide where I want things to go from here, and evaluate the choices I’ve made over the last seven months.

The last month, especially, has been difficult for me. There’s been a lot of fighting in my personal life, and while it’s resulted in ending that relationship, I think that in the end that is for the best. I keep hoping that I can learn to savor the life I’m building for myself, but a lot of it is still searching and still wishing for things to be slightly different than they are.

I recently tried to reconnect with my family via Facebook and Skype only to be rebuffed.

I always imagined that I would have a large family of loved ones, children, and intimate friends built up by the time I reached 35. That date is less than one full day away, and some days thinking about that makes this journey less joyful because I am making it alone. And then I realize that while I don’t have the life I dreamed of, I have something I could never have imagined before I got here.

It is bittersweet some days, but, just like in a rich chocolate bar, the darker notes and the slight bitterness balances the sweet and makes everything more complex and enjoyable.

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Author: Christina Zastrow

Somewhere along my way through life, I managed to lose sight of myself. Then when my first long term relationship fell apart I found myself homeless, unemployed, and without family or support system. I decided it was time to find my way home, back to myself. This is my journey.

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