Re-entry Isn’t Easy

While sorting files on my computer the other day, I came across a document that made me laugh. I wrote it many years ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by the transition of re-entry into my small California hometown that didn’t feel so much like home.

2 Minute Read

By Susan Driscoll

I remember the experience vividly that prompted the “How to Pump Gas” document writing. When I pulled up to a gas station to fill up my car, my mind went blank. And then my mind went racing with thoughts like:

What am I supposed to do?

Do I pay first? Pump gas first?

Which kind of gas do I want?

How do I get that little door to pop open for the gas tank?

Oh, I think it’s on the other side of the car, so now I have to back up and pull in the other direction…But wait, I am fenced in now since the guy behind me is busy getting his gas, and he doesn’t look like he is going anywhere soon.

I think you get the picture.

If you have lived in America your whole life and owned the same car since as far back as you can remember, you might not be able to imagine such a strange scenario.

But if you are like me, and have traveled back and forth between continents, drive different and unfamiliar cars often and feel easily overloaded with constant new information….you might be able to empathize. Just maybe. Plus, for a long time in Japan there was no self-service and the attendant at the gas station always pumped the gas for us.

What seems like an everyday, ordinary errand that I had done countless times before now paralyzed me and reduced me to sweats, confusion and panic…and downright embarrassment.

Voila! The “Gas-help-document.” This will provide a little help to navigate my way through reverse culture shock after a prolonged absence away from home. It’s something we still face, to varying degrees, each time we step onto American soil.


As I sit here at my computer and read these gas notes, I chuckle. I have now experienced the journey of settling back into America life many, many times. As I envision doing it in the future, I think I can probably, at least vaguely, remember how to fill my car with gas without needing this memo.

Even if I freeze up the next time I am in the U.S., will I really have the mental capacity to remember I have a Word Doc in my computer to help me out? Probably not! But just in case… I won’t delete this document. Somehow just having this gives me a little more confidence that I might not feel so stuck the next time I have to navigate the sometimes scary world of putting gas in my car at home.

Wondering how you can support missionaries as they deal with reentry and navigating life overseas? Click here for practical tips.

The original article was published on Memoirs of a Missionary Mom. Republished with permission.


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