reintegration: the firsts and the nexts

The excitement of “coming home” has only worn off by a few degrees as, now two full month in, we are still having firsts.  The first time eating sushi, oreo cookies and soy pumpkin chai latte (but not all at once!).  The first time riding in a public bus, the BC ferry or driving a car.  The first snow, the first time wearing mittens, the first feel of sub-zero temperatures.

But now I can’t remember the other firsts.  First trip to the grocery store, first load of laundry, first bubble bath.

Then there are other firsts.

I can’t remember who first asked: “how was your trip?”  That’s likely a good thing.

When teachers say there is no such thing as a stupid question, they don’t mean this one.  Not that it’s a stupid question, but only that is boggles the mind.  FYI and for future reference, 2 years isn’t a trip… it’s a toddler.  And how do you deal with toddlers and the terrible twos?  You appreciate the growth and development being experienced, forgive the awkwardness of their social interactions and make sure not to feed them too much sugar!

End of rant.  Deep breath in, rant out.  That’s better.

Seriously though, what I can say is that every time someone asks “What’s next?” An internal struggle begins as if each new time it is asked, the first happen all over again. While the interrogators have meant no harm, I’ve nonetheless tried a few different comebacks:

– “Self-imposed and nomadic homelessness is quite in vogue these days.” (i.e. I live out of a suitcase and call anywhere home)

– “I just want to enjoy reliable electricity and hot water for now” (and I don’t know how long it’ll take to decide when I am done enjoying these luxuries)

– “We’re in-between-adventures” (usually a positive way of saying unemployed)

– “Nothing” (OK, that was unfair as a statement, but the reaction was pretty funny)

But it’s not good enough, is it?  Come on – they ask – what’s are you going to do now?  Where are you going to live?  Are you staying in Canada?  What about work?  Where are you going to find a job?


It’s not a bad question, really.  It’s not even a complicated one.  And while I know we should have a well-packaged answer, the reality is that we don’t have one that will satisfy even the least curious nor the best-intention inquirer.


Some volunteers go back to their homes and their old job.  Some head back to school or “reoffend” by volunteering again.  We are not that different.  We’re still working from the same storyboard – only it’s now adjusted to our new experiences and to the lessons we have learned.  Going “back to” isn’t part of that game plan.

Going forward is… At least we know the direction of travel if not the destination…

Two years ago we embarked on this adventure with the hope of gaining new insights that would propel us into a new future that was filled with what we most wanted to do with our lives.  In this way, it’s been a blessing.  We know so much more about what makes us tick, what gets us up in the morning, and what sustains us through challenging situations.  We know where our hearts are and what we most want to do going forward.

An interesting cosmic thing has been happening lately that has made the game plan look like a tactical response to an alien invasion.  Each time decided to “take a break” and go check out a particular tennis shop in Montreal, something happened which prevented not only that shopping trip, but the rest of the week’s activities were also turned upside down. We were beginning to think that this store was cursed, or that any well-laid plans on our part are contrary to the forces of serendipity. Then it started happening with other stores too… So we just stopped thinking more than two-days ahead.  At most.

Either way, we are approaching our “what next” dilemma with extreme flexibility.

So we most sincerely ask you to forgive us for not answering the question directly.  Even if we tried, we would have to rewrite the story in a few days and then we’d all be confused.  For the moment, this is what we can say for sure about how we are reintegrating and what is next:

Greg’s approach is one of situational opportunity.  Within a couple of weeks of our return, he answered the door when opportunity first came knocking.  He’s presently filling in a short-term need with CUSO International which had him visiting two Latin American countries, doing multiple trips to our lovely Canadian capital and working with a whole new group of hardworking staff and volunteers.  All of this while he’s figuring out what the “next challenge” really is and where it might be taking us.

As for me, I have taken a challenge and conquer approach.  I have been getting my little project ducks in a row and have begun to coach them, each in turn, about how to become beautiful swans.  I learned how to knit socks and I wrote my heart out for National Novel Writing Month.  All of this while I’m doing what I can to support our common dreams and figuring out how best to pack and repack a mosquito net.

Big decisions ahead.  We’ll call it the “next first” and celebrate it as an answer to all major life questions.


~ by Caroline Spira on December 24, 2011.

4 Responses to “reintegration: the firsts and the nexts”

  1. Great answer! The What’s Next question is so huge and people don’t realize it. Being one who reinvents every couple of years, I know just what you mean. The irony is that for those of us who pack in the adventures, we hardly need external forces asking us what’s next. We have a little voice on overdrive asking it everyday. I’m glad you are exploring options – it can be tiring to sift through them all but I can’t imagine life with out change and adventure. I have to admit I like thinking that I know where you are in the world again. Have a wonderful Christmas, I’m thinking of you both and wishing you peace and joy.

  2. C’est toujours aussi enrichissant de vous lire.

  3. I stumbled across your page while reading about an acquaintance of the same name who passed away. Having done a stint in Central African Republic with Peace Corps in the 80s, I understand much of the sentiment. I used to say that people asked,”So how was it?” when what they really mean was, “So how was it? — in twenty-five words or less …”

    Welcome back!

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