Adjustment is a methodical process. There are steps to complete, which, once completed, not always in the same order, will let you be in a position to say you have been “adjusted” to a situation, place, or people. It is a natural process and inbuilt in almost every living being.
I am 24 turning 25, finished with my postgraduate, working woman – and I am currently in the process of readjusting back into my own country. I never thought there was such a concept as “readjusting” to the place you have lived 23 years of your life at. You carry out the exercise once in your life for a particular situation, human or place, but my point of view has been massacred since the five months I have been back home.
I left home for my postgraduate studies in London in September of 2014 and I was back in September of 2015. For most, this was just a year and there is not much impact an individual can have from a year. I disagree. It is not the freedom, independence or the option to live life on my own terms, which has thrown me into this whirlpool of emotions that do not seem to make any sense. I have the liberty of making my own decisions and the freedom here, as well. It is all that I associate with the previous year of my life – exploration. Exploring about myself, new place, new life – new everything. It is the fact that I didn’t have my family or friends to go to in case something went haywire and I knew I could still survive. It is about figuring out that you can do it on your own. You are bigger than what you thought about yourself. You are more than all that you thought about yourself cause you kept afloat at the end of the day. It is about successes and failures, standing back up and continuing to thrive in a cut-throat competitive environment.
I was born and brought up in Lahore, Pakistan. I am the eldest child of parents who made sure that I get the best education (Yes, Asian parents hypothesis is in fact a proved one), was instilled with the right morals and values. Also, I think the eldest child is always brought up with the most vigour and rigour, at the same time, and is experimented with. I am a product of all of that and so much, hence a resultant concoction of explorative, ambitious and hungry for experience kind-of-personality. So the idea of moving away from home was always an attractive one.
Stepping onto the streets of London can be daunting for a newbie, no matter how tough you believe yourself to be. The Pakistani concept of commuting involves cars with their designated drivers irrespective of the place, but to be a true Londoner, you need to learn how to put your feet in front of each other quickly enough to seem like you do not care about what comes in your way – you walk (everywhere) with a purpose. This concept was particularly a hard one to wrap your head (and feet) around but the city gives you a week to master the art of walking and if you don’t, you are crushed (sometimes, literally). A week later, I was beginning to see a streak of the Londoner angst in myself – overtaking those slow walkers who were probably in the same position I was in a week go. I had to arrange all my life in a week. I did not understand the affairs of managing every single penny by myself since moving out of home at 16 or 18 is not really an Asian concept. After getting lost multiple times in the perfect blend of a modern yet old city, being subjected to be answerable for every pound that was being used, finding my way through, and most importantly, learning to survive on the most basic of food because I couldn’t cook anything more than an omelette which wouldn’t even flip right in the beginning.
In a span of a week, I could do all of this and managed to get on with what seemed to be the biggest roller coaster in terms of an academic degree, which has the ability to make you feel that your brain was probably not developed properly to understand the concepts tossed your way.
A month at max, I think it was safe to call myself a Londoner. I had everything under control, except the academic twists and turns were way too steep so each time, it felt like a bigger and a harder blow to the head. But I was learning aspects of the field I never thought I would and growing up in ways I never thought I could so I did not want to put that at a halt. Spending hours at the library and trying to have a life at the end of the day was a seemingly impossible task that I had conquered. Life in London is an impeccable paradox that grips you in its complexities which makes want to never let go of it.
And before I knew it, it was time to work on my dissertation, which consequently meant looking at the end of the year of all things new. I was aware of the fact that this experience came with an expiry date from the very beginning but what they say about not knowing how good something is while you’re going through it deemed untrue for me, because I knew I had to fit in all my growing up in a year and I did. I flew back home on the same date I flew in to London.
Fixing the circadian rhythms was the least of my problems when I landed back. I was done with my postgraduate degree. I was stepping into the professional phase of my life, while that was a progression, the rest of my life felt like regression in the true essence of the word. I was back to living the same life, but I was different. My thought processes have changed, my worldview has widened, my take on matters has transformed.
Initially, it isn’t about the big changes one has to re-accustom themselves to, it is the small, everyday life you have to push a revert button for. There was no more walking everywhere (something you grow so fond of), there are your parents looking after your food, living (while that is not all that bad, the transition seems like taking a step back after doing it all on your own), the people around you mean different, you start to pick out flaws you never spotted before, you start to appreciate the little things you never noticed before. In retrospect, a year is not that long enough, but in the bigger picture, a year has the knack to do more than you realize.
I got lucky and got a job two weeks after I got back, despite the job market being immensely unstable. However, that did not stop me from thinking about the “what-ifs” and the struggle to revert back to the same life piece by piece. While it has not been all that bad, it has indeed been a fight. Readjustment to a familiar place, familiar people, and familiar situations – the process takes time, but you take all those experiences and learning and look them through a positivist’s glasses – because that is how you survive.
Scott Fitzgerald’s saying resonates deeply pertinent to this topic that goes, “It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”