I didn’t expect to miss the things about home that I miss. Missing family and friends was always a given, but there are some things that have taken me by surprise.
I didn’t expect to miss the stars, the way the air smells, the storms, or my gym (as strange as it is to miss a gym…) I didn’t expect to miss the floods and the weather warnings, the ongoing joke that is Brisbane city’s drainage. I didn’t expect to miss my old shitty bed I’ve had since I was 16 but feels like home.
I miss the familiarity of leaving the house without triple checking the direction I’m going or the transport I need to get. I’m homesick because the symbols on the keyboard at work are in just a slightly different place – different enough that I still make silly punctuation mistakes at work, and then go home and make the opposite mistakes on my own normal (correct) keyboard.
I have come to realise that some relationships just work better face to face; I can probably count on my fingers how many times I’ve spoken to my parents since being away. Pouring your life into a series of snapshot messages just doesn’t come naturally to some people or some relationships. I’m hearing things about home from third or fourth sources, when I’m used to being the first. Being on the other side of the world makes you hyper aware of the last time you spoke to someone in a way that would never ever cross your mind if they were within easy reach. Long stretches between messages seem like a chasm in the relationship that you created simply by choosing another life.
The fact is that life goes on without you. People fall ill, people get married, people are born and people die in this little bubble called “Home” that you are now viewing from the outside. You removed yourself from the bubble and all you can do now is observe. You can’t keep forcing yourself on people’s lives when you chose to leave it, so observation is almost all you’re really entitled to anymore.
I feel particularly helpless when I remember how far away home is for me. I can’t jump in a car or on a cheap flight for a couple of hours like Europeans can. When home is more than a day away plus recovery, more than the cost of a month’s rent away and at least a week off work away, how is it an affordable option?
So how do you deal? Experts recommend taking time to revel in the nostalgia, which I guess I’ve been doing without even realising. While I can’t get a good old tropical Queensland storm in London, I like to fall asleep to a rain sounds playlist on Spotify sometimes. I habitually eat Vegemite at least once a week, and will go out of my way to stockpile jars so we never run out. I like to stream Triple J when I’m sitting on the bus some mornings, just to hear the accent strong and proud and in context.
And yet, I can’t stop missing the stars. Even when I can see them here (which isn’t often) they aren’t the Southern stars, they aren’t in the right place. Nothing else puts me quite off kilter quite like knowing something isn’t in the right place.
photo by andrew jenkins
So how do you deal with homesickness as an expat? Tell me in the comments below!
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