1. Get a master's degree - check
2. Take a break from Cambodia's heat and humidity - check
3. Spend time with family - check
4. Learn how to be a grown-up in America - um, how do I measure that one?
I moved to Phnom Penh at the tender age of almost-23. In Cambodia, those next six years, I learned some great local life hacks and shouldered some big responsibilities. In the US each summer, not so much. I moved back in with my parents, borrowed their cars, caught up with old friends, and rested. My only real summer responsibilities carried over from my Cambodian teaching job (reading, lesson planning, professional development), although I did occasionally help my mom weed the garden. I was basically an overgrown college kid.
Meanwhile, it was clear that my peers were mastering some American life skills that I'd never needed to acquire, as well as a lot of cultural references that whooshed over my head. Tim Tebow? Benghazi? Parks and Rec? Gender reveal parties? Quinoa? Every year there were new things to google.
The problem is, spending time in the US while legally an adult does not necessarily make one good at adulting. I know I'm not the first millennial to discover this truth. In 2015 when I stopped working at Logos, my parents welcomed me back home rent-free, bought me a car (I eventually reimbursed them), and added me to their cell phone plan. Going back to school and getting a nannying job didn't do much to shake my self-image as that overgrown college kid. So now that my two years are up and I'm getting ready to return to Cambodia, I'm wondering how far I've come.
I'm realizing that adulting skills are quite diverse and don't come all at once. Even my friends and peers who live in the US full-time, without much help from parents, haven't necessarily needed to plan a funeral, get a reverse mortgage, or care for aging parents. That being said, there are things I'm now OK with that used to make me panic. Here are a few areas where I've improved:
- Pumping my own gas (I even check my oil now)
- Wearing scarves and boots
- Selling things on Craigslist
- Managing preschoolers
- Negotiating with Americans
- Building a fire
- Navigating Obamacare and Medicaid
- Handling parent-teacher conferences from the other side of the desk
- Renting a car
- Camping (without my parents)
- Using a leaf blower and snow blower
- Traveling with children
- Making small talk with Americans who aren't my age
- Making small talk with Americans who are my age... these last two are huge for me!
Can I say I'm all grown up now? No, but I can say I've done some growing up. I feel much more settled now in America and like my own person than I did during all those summer visits. And for that, I'm glad.