You feel a sort of anxiety and sickness before you leave, the kind that makes you perfectly okay with falling asleep at 8pm the night before and waking up at 4:02am to pack and do laundry in a semi-conscious state of numb flurry; it’s easier that way. You drive to the airport or take a train, or if you’re lucky hop into your own comfy car for a road trip across state lines. And sometimes you end up in your childhood town, and sometimes you’re off in the workforce, but after the plane has touched down and your luggage is unpacked and the lag wears off you feel…lonely.
When you are homesick, the world feels so barren. You feel as if there is no one on your side, you feel as if you’re anonymous. And it’s not the kind of welcome anonymity of sitting at a coffee shop and people watching; it’s the kind of anonymity that longs for a warm blanket and a hand to hold. It’s so strange that sometimes even when we stay put, that’s when we can feel the most alone. Even when we’re home, we can feel the most homesick.
How is it that we can go someplace completely new and feel at ease, yet in the comfort of our own house or apartment we can feel isolation the deepest? Surrounded by family in the place in which you grew up you might as well be a stranger – but amidst new friends it’s like the steel-barred windows have been opened and darkness stands no chance.
All the movies and love songs tell us that home isn’t a place, it’s a person. Or that home is where the heart is. But is it possible that home is not a location or partner or family, or a tangible of any kind – that home is a feeling?
I was a 56 hour labor. Nothing was wrong with me, I just didn’t want to go. And apparently, I could barely be left alone as an infant without bursting into tears. I would say that’s just a typical baby thing, if there hadn’t been so many instances as I became a real live person to justify the fact that those were in fact the first glimmers of my propensity towards homesickness developing. I called my dad on the verge of tears during sleepovers, I made the three hour trek home almost every weekend of my first year of college. Even in my adult life I am not a huge fan of travel, especially if there is seemingly nothing and no one there to remind me of who I am. Seemingly.
Home is a feeling of familiarity, home is routine, home is opening up and being yourself. Home is your favorite shampoo or grocery store salad and the way you can make a bank teller laugh just like you would your best friend. Home is calling from two time zones away and a voice you love answering on the other line, you both narrating the scenery around and sharing the nuances of the day just like you would when you’re in the same square footage. Home is a walk that you know or the smile of a stranger, because that invisible explosion of shared energy is everything. And nothing, no person, place or thing, can steal that kind of home away.
In the midst of those internal tears and the full-but-empty house, you pause to exchange kind words with a clerk at the convenience store as they ring you up, complimenting them or asking how their day’s been so far. You sip a cup of coffee and it warms so much more than your hands and stomach. You sit on a bench somewhere and take out a notepad, start writing out your thoughts and notice how even if your surroundings are uncomfortable or foreign you still have yourself. The times when you let go and breathe, the instances in which somehow your dreams and path seem to fit together so very nicely; there is an ease about you and a quiet fluttering of your heart.
And suddenly, even in the sting of yearning, you realize that homesickness is simply the unfamiliar and the inauthentic, and that home is wherever you are the you that you know you want to be. You have everything you need and everyone around you is there for a reason. It doesn’t matter what the outside looks like or where your plane ride takes you. You are complete. You are loved. You are…home.