By: Merette Khalil
Merette is from Cairo, Egypt and graduated from St. Louis University in 2016 with a degree in Public Health, Business, Managment, Int'l Studies and Local/Global Social Justice Studies. This year Merette is working as a Patient Advocate at the Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center in Washington, DC.
Where did the time go?! How is it almost October already?! I still remember my first day… it was a memorable one, to say the least, but as I boarded the metro, I read a poem, a powerful prayer, perfectly-timed, and challenging. The prayer by Joyce Rupp on New Beginnings, forced one to imagine one’s self at a gate and observe its shape, size, color, and more importantly, the detailed symbols (words or phrase) etched, greeting you as you walk in, capturing its significance and your hope. I giggled at God’s irony and sense of humor with such a perfect reflection for a first day.
As I focused, attempting to capture this image as spiritual nourishment for the day, I recall seeing the word “Roots” as my symbol on the gate, to which I giggled some more to myself, for the irony was just getting thicker… you see… the theme of ‘Home’ is a tricky one for me.
As a multicultural child (or TCK) with close friends and family living and traveling all around the world, it’s hard for me to pinpoint ‘home’. I draw from the values of many cultures and I learn words, mannerisms, manners and worldviews from the Middle East and the United States (and many other places in between).
“Where is Home?” is a gray zone question, often difficult to explain to those on the periphery of my life; and especially, during this time of transition. While I had hoped that my ‘gate symbols/words’ would be ‘adventure’ or ‘confidence’ or even ‘clarity in discernment’, of course, it would be an arrow that cuts right through to the core of my many questions, hopes and feelings during this time.
And yet, while I struggle with pinpointing ‘home’ or knowing how and where to plant my roots, I have found myself feeling deeply “homesick” these past few weeks. Longing and missing the familiarity of college friends and certain places back “home”. Memories of studying (or truthfully, procrastinating) at the library, organizing clubs and meetings, laughing at silly things, enjoying coffee dates, froyo, walks, meaningful life-chats, hugs and adventures catch me off-guard sometimes. I grieve and smile and miss these precious moments with my “family.” And having just had a birthday this week only intensified these bittersweet feelings of longing and gratitude, as I received notes, messages, calls and emails from my people, my friends and family everywhere.
Transitions are really hard.
Transitions push you to this place of questioning, seeking, hoping, grieving, and growing, while also juggling the tedious tasks of getting acclimated to a new place. When you graduate, earn your diploma, and move on, what they forget to tell you is that the emotional labor of processing uprooting and moving to re-root, in addition to the new routine, is exhausting! I have heard it said that it takes about 3 months to get fully settled into a new environment, for it to stop feeling foreign and to start feeling like ‘home’. 3 MONTHS! I was hoping that maybe I could be the exception. What does one do in the meantime? How can I expedite this process and be done with these incessant uncomfortable feelings of being in flux?
Well… throughout the past 6 weeks, I have learned a few things:
Firstly, while transitions are draining and frustrating, they are healthy. The feelings of discomfort and insecurity around a new place are normal and ubiquitous. It has been a remarkable blessing to have the support and solidarity of my Junia House-mates, as we are all experiencing similar feelings and processing them differently.
Secondly, while transitions often involve travel or transit or moving, one of the more important routes, is within! Due to their unfamiliar nature, transitions have pushed me to look for love, comfort, reassurance, support, affirmation that I am where I am supposed to be. I am often surprised to find exactly what I need already with me (and while it is uncomfortable sometimes to listen in silence, it’s beautiful). There is light and love all around if you focus to see it.
And thirdly, there is no magic solution to making transitions go faster and to start feeling at “home”. Home becomes home when it’s no longer foreign or uncomfortable. Home becomes home with shared laughter, shared stories, shared meals. Home becomes home with each menial step in the new routine: with waking up in a new bed, with catching the right buses to work and back, with matching each face/name at the clinic, with getting better at my work, with office jokes, with shared meals each night, with highs-&-lows at dinner.
Home has become home without me noticing! And while it is still the gray zone between homesick and settling, it is a joy to be here.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.