When my time as a missionary was done, and I was to take the lessons I'd learned and move on with life at home, I felt a strange mix of emotions. I had left my mission to "come home," but it felt just as much like "leaving" home, so returning home and seeing my family was tinged with homelessness. I also saw my vague, future life with a distantly hopeful heart while regarding my tasks at hand with a sort of comparative emptiness. I couldn't shake the feeling that it seemed a bit hollow to be focusing on "me" and the comparatively menial chores of school, finances, and career. I knew they were necessary, but they seemed so relatively insignificant to what really mattered, what I'd been focusing my attention on.
I knew that others had served missions and had been through this, but only missionaries I served with really knew what my mission was like, and nobody in the world could see even those shared experiences through my eyes. Only I knew exactly how I interpreted them, or what they meant to me. I wanted to share everything in my head with my friends and family after the mission, the many things I'd learned and experienced and felt, but no amount of journal-writing could keep up with my thoughts, and no amount of explanation could put into anyone else's mind or heart anything approaching the complexity I'd experienced or perceived. No, that experience was mine and mine alone, and though I wished I could share it or express it, I settled on sharing the snippets I could which seemed most appropriate to my audience.
I was happy to be back among the few old friends who remained in my home town, but I experienced an intellectual loneliness and the vaguely melancholic sense that I had changed in ways I could never fully explain, and I could never fully "return" to how I was or how I had previously viewed life. I really struggled with the reality that nobody really understands me fully, and vice versa, and probably nobody ever will, and I have to accept understanding "enough". When people (such as friends of other faiths) would try to relate to my mission experience using their summer exchange programs to foreign countries, I would nod patiently while thinking to myself, "That's on a completely different level and in a different context, without the deeply spiritual meaning, so it's not nearly what I'm talking about, but OK, we'll just say you relate somewhat."
Tonight, I was thinking about my life now, and I wondered why I felt so intellectually alone, and funky about starting fresh in building a new life, struggling to see any of it as meaningful or important compared to where I've been, or what I had. It struck me in clarity: this was a familiar feeling. And it gave me hope that the pieces will come together, enough, in time, and home will redefine itself, and I will re-learn that sometimes I just have to accept, even though it's hard when those close to you can't relate or think you're on a questionable path, that nobody will fully understand what's inside of me and what I see. Maybe it will even all work out in the long run, in a progressive cycle with good times along the way. One can hope...