The ache of homesickness
As I toddled up the hill to my new flat, I realised it was the first time I’d cried since I arrived. I was homesick.
Homesickness when you’re a kid is weeping silently into your sleeping bag at the sleepover, weighing up the consequences of ringing your parents to pick you up. The upside is that their cuddles are the best, and your Little Mermaid duvet cover is softer than your sleeping-bag. The downside is you’ll be remembered as the kid who couldn’t handle it. Who wasn’t able for the fight. Who missed all the banter at breakfast. Who chickened out. Who went home.
When you’re a twentysomething emigrant, homesickness is when Jeremy on aisle two asks you if you’re crying, and not knowing exactly when the stinging in your eyes turned into a genuine ache in your body for the people you know and love. Homesickness is realising that the toothy smiley women on the hair-dye boxes are probably the closest thing you have to a gang of girlfriends on this side of the world. Homesickness is knowing, absolutely, that there is no chickening out this time.
Back in the flat I slumped into the ridiculous 1970s chair that takes precedence in our new sitting room and my partner sympathetically brought me some ice for my eye. He then went back to capturing villains in some decrepit 3D landscape on the Xbox, and I sat down with Microsoft Word to hammer out what was going on in my head.
It occurred to me then that I have acted out this scene a million times back home. All these tiny components that make up a hard day are basically the same, no matter where in the world you are. The emigration myth is that once you leave home to start your adventure, adventure is constant. You’ll be too busy discovering things and eating food from Mexico and working in Silicon Valley and getting freckly in the warmth to be homesick. What the emigration myth fails to mention is that when you’re gone, life is still just life, only in a different place. It is not the differences that make surviving easy. It’s the sameness of it.
You still get up in the morning and look on the internet for a job. You still cook food and get laid. You still get pissed off and you still laugh so hard you have to sit down somewhere to catch your breath. There are people you miss but there are new people everywhere to tell stories with, and live new stories with.
This knowledge, for me, is what keeps the flight instinct at bay: stories are still everywhere, tiny scraps of adventure, shining out among the peace of normality. This is what keeps me going, what makes me brave enough for this party.
I don’t care how hot it is, and no matter how much I have to weep into my sleeping bag, I will see you at breakfast.
My father’s name is Sean, my mother’s name is Patricia. There. That feels better.
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