Speeding Ticket


I’m home after spending over one and a half years in the Peace Corps. I visited once before, last summer. But this time is different.

My last visit, I was an American who happened to live in Ethiopia. This time, I feel like an Ethiopian who happens to be in the DC area.

Being home is incredibly comfortable.  Comfort. That is the best way to describe it. I love walking barefoot on the carpet, opening he refrigerator, and lying down on clean, crisp fitted bed sheets. I’ve eaten my weight in cereal, cheese, and potato chips. My family is incredible and Carly feels like home. My first shower felt like a massage.

The lines here are definite, the corners are angled perfectly and electrical appliances fit perfectly into the sockets. There are sidewalks and perfectly mulched gardens. It seems foreign to me. Everything is the same and yet it is entirely different. Sometimes my neighborhood feels like home, and sometimes it feels fake. I don’t know if this is all a dream.

There is such a contrast in the aesthetics of my two countries. But the bigger contrast can’t be seen. Rather I can feel it. There is a collective anxiety that I feel in the air. Something about DC makes everyone feel that they are behind, behind on their inbox and behind on time.  People rush everywhere, but can’t get anywhere. Something in the air keeps people moving.  

I get caught up in it too. I’m not strong enough to repel the forces of anxious movement.

We in our 20’s obsess over movement. We aren’t content to hang out with our friends on the porch. To not have plans and be perfectly okay with it. It has to be at a bar. And once we are at the bar, we have to go to another bar. We obsess over careers, whether moving up or moving out. Our jobs and relationships are always changing. We change apartments, constantly on the move.  We crave it.  And then we wonder where the time went.

And like I said, I give in. I get sucked into the collective unconscious. Groupthink grabs me. Carly and I have felt this pull to constantly be doing something. Rather, we should have been focused on actively doing nothing, and embracing the present.

On Sunday, My Mom, Carly and I were heading home from Church. We were rushing to eat, and get home before some friends were coming over to plan a wedding. I got a speeding ticket, going 48 in a 30 on Lee Highway. A perfect welcome home present. But also a perfect reminder:

Slow down.


7 comments on “Speeding Ticket

  1. Brittany says:

    This is a great post! I’m a PCV in Peru and coming from the DC area it’s hard to feel like I’m accomplishing anything here even when I have projects going on, because there’s the incessant need to feel more productive, do more, and go faster instilled in me by the DC pace. I have to remind myself to slow down and just enjoy the everyday before it’s over.

  2. Word to that! I know exactly how you feel, DC is nuts! I can’t believe that this pace of life used to be “normal”, hahaha 🙂 If you haven’t already, you should read Bill Bryson’s “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”–his short stories about returning to the US after 20 years abroad, good stuff.

  3. Kari Barnum says:

    Well, Mike….I have been home 3 weeks from my 1 year experience in lovely Chiri and I will admit, I agree with everything you said and sorry about the speeding ticket! I have been lucky so far! Amazing how much time I have still spent alone here, difference – Cell phone and television! Not sure I am prepared to jump on the crazy freeway of life again! Sorry I am missing you, been in DC June 9or 10th for a few days! Tell Carly, would love to see her if she will be around!!! Have a great rest of the visit and remember, only 7 more months till November!!!! Hugs to the Chiri gang next time you see them!!!

  4. Judy B says:

    I always found coming home to be ever so much more difficult than going and getting settled in my country (Liberia 81-83) When I got home, I would sit for hours without turning on lights, still do this come to think of it. I also found my self impatient with those around me who were so obsessed with junk that was really not so important. Enjoy your stay and safe return.

  5. thatcase says:

    Welcome home … and, thanks!

  6. Love this post! from a fellow DMV-er and Ethiopian 🙂

  7. […] friend forwarded me a blog today.  This post kind of says it all.  I am running around in circles and not really even sure I am moving forward […]

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