Homesickness. That heavy feeling in the chest one might get when they miss home. What a familiar feeling it has become for me these past few years, like a good old friend, or should I say a bully, paying me a visit every once in a while, pushing me in a dark corner while looming over my head, tormenting me. Some say that homesickness is something akin to a terrible affliction and that eventually it should go away, like most sicknesses do, if only you could give yourself some time and perhaps a little bit more courage to persevere through the cold hard days of loneliness. I know now a lot more about life and ailments, about pain and solitude. I know now, after just over a quarter of life on this earth, that time doesn’t indeed heal everything and that it is rather something that teaches you how to turn a blind eye at this nagging feeling of longing or, best case scenario, that makes you learn to live with this newfound pain. But, just like grief, it never goes completely away, and neither can your memory and your body truly forget this perpetual sting. The same goes for homesickness. It doesn’t go away, you just learn to live with it until one day you decide to make do with what you got and manage to find a little bit of home on new, foreign, grounds.
You grow used to it and you end up feeling fine almost always, but it does still linger in the back of your mind, like a dormant beast ready to wake up at any time to wreck the steady journey of the train of your thoughts. It comes and goes, crashing like monstrous waves of troubling emotions every once in a while, leaving a permanent dent at your shore, forever altering the rhythm of your beating heart and the habits of your speech. It becomes ingrained in your bones, leaving you to never be quite the same ever again. More often than not, the waves are predictable; they come during specific moments of your daily life, making you miss trivial things you took for granted. Christmas away from your family. The start of spring without the sound of honking Canadian geese flying back home. Summers lacking buttery corn on the cob and lazy afternoons by the pool. The whole month of October without crispy red leaves crackling under your step and the warm smell of pumpkin and spices. The biggest wave of all comes when you miss your family and when you go through something big in your life and you just wish they were there, closer to you, embracing you, praising or consoling you for every high and low you might encounter. Much later, after each wave has retreated at last, you are left staring at a daunting clean and blank slate that tells the tales of nothing that was and everything that could be. Where do you go from there?
Sometimes homesickness feels as if you’re stuck in limbo between who you used to be and who you could become, every now and then tempted to look back over your shoulder in your moments of vulnerability, while at other times feeling like you’re bold and confident enough to brace this uncertain road paved in front of you. Past you and future you live divided, dangling from either side of an endless cliff that is your present self, threatening to fall into this unfamiliar unknown if you can’t choose one or the other nearly quickly enough. In a moment of uncertainty, I tried to reach out to the past. I had jumped backwards, back to the safe harbor of my hometown and my city, only to find out that everything had changed or, to be more accurate, that everything had instead remained exactly the same as when I left it; it was my way of seeing it all that had drastically shifted. Home wasn’t home anymore, it felt foreign and, in some aspects, even uninspiring, especially after spending months after months trying to rewire this brain of mine to be more forward oriented. Or was it my idea of home that was totally wrong? What was the meaning of “home”, anyway?
When you have been living abroad for some time, you come to realize that home is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I’ve come to learn the meaning of home while looking through new loving eyes full of warmth and through those new seasons coming again year after year with familiarity, shaping me along the way, making me into this new, stronger and happier person. Maybe home is something that can be found within yourself. Maybe it is that imaginary, forever evolving luggage that you carry with you everywhere and open up when you finally decide on where to set up camp for the cold night. Maybe this luggage can be summed up to all the memories of your childhood or even to that specific smell you might encounter on foreign lands that brings you back twenty years back and ten thousand of kilometers away in an instant. Home is all the values and the love your family gave you as a box full of memories to carry close to your heart throughout your journey, like a small flame shining continuously deep within yourself. And so it seems like homesickness is just part of this deal, like a side effect that lingers on and on.
I think it all comes down to maturing, and god knows I’ve done a lot of that in the past few years. Maturing is not an easy task and it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Or perhaps it is, actually, specifically intended for the insecure souls, the petrified little girls who prefer letting people cut in front of them in the long line to their dreams, just so she can buy some time and then wait some more. Maturing feels just like this push in the back coming from your inner child, whispering behind you that it’s time to let go, that home isn’t where you expect it to be found. And that push will probably hurt and leave you with a permanent bruise which will stings from time to time, reminding you of the past, reminding you that you are feeling this way because you have been loved enough to feel the sudden emptiness. And you’ll call it homesickness. And that is perfectly fine. You’ll move along, go about your days through the endless crowds and the endless months that come and go and, little by little, you’ll fill up this emptiness with new memories, with new scents and new smiles. It will be imperfect, and some days it might even feel like the “hole” is more half empty than half full, but you’ll call it life and move on. The seasons will continue rolling in with their familiar comforting patterns to brighten your mundane. Christmas with the one you love the most. The start of spring with the city colored with the pink hues of cherry blossoms. Summer festivals full of shaved-ice treats and yakisoba. The whole month of November with the delightful smell of warm sweet potatoes and Mont Blanc cakes. And there you will kind of find it. Home. And it will be enough.
– Lisa Poirier
✥ Maple & Sakura ✥
Disclaimer: All the pictures used are mine.