Even The Homeless Get Homesick

If I had to name the most serious ailment that I suffer from, I’d say homesickness, hands down. Considering the transient and distant nature of our lives, this seems impossible. But I am here to tell you that while I am in recovery, you’re never fully cured of homesickness.

When I was a kid, I was totally the type to agree to a sleepover at a friend’s and then have to call my mom crying once the sleeping bags came out and do the walk of shame out to her mini-van when she came to pick me up. Eventually I smartened up and began to be sure extend a preemptive invite for all sleepovers. It may have coincidentally and accidentally made me and my parents seem really cool since I wanted friends to sleep over so often. But I was a coward. And my mom was sick of picking me up in the middle of the night.

As I grew up, I came to my senses enough to realize that both myself and my parents benefited from a night with us out of the house. But the idea of being away longer than a weekend was still daunting. My first ever planned trip to Europe was an exchange with German high school students. Basically, a bunch of my friends from German class and our one very lax and naive teacher, Herr Ahlers, took off the Germany for a month. No real supervision, a European attitude towards alcohol, cute boys who barely knew what I was saying. I signed up, hosted my German counterpart for a month and promptly pulled out of the deal very soon before our scheduled departure. My parents were shocked and, in retrospect, probably out a few bucks. My German teacher made a visit to my home and tried to reason with me auf Deutsch. But I just cried and shook my head and missed my chance at a fully funded, unsupervised trip to Europe. If that’s not a sickness, I don’t know what is.

A year later, after committing to go to school in Ann Arbor about 7 hours drive from my home, that familiar cold feet feeling. Obviously there was no way I could back out of this. I had been all talk about getting out of that one horse town and going to a prestigious school for years. Maybe even a decade. But I started getting ill over it, thinking of myself so far from my parents and my sister without a car and without friends and without a clue. I really gave myself no credit, but as soon as I got there and everything was unpacked into the asbetosish dorm room, the sickness faded and I made some of the greatest friends of my life. I didn’t even move home the next summer.

As time passed and I became more accustomed to life outside of the Marquette-bubble, my homesickness became more of a seasonal chest cold and less of a terminal cancer. I made the most of my visits home, my family and friends came to see me when they could, I found my niche in each new environment. Now that it has become the norm to go nearly a year between visits back to the nest, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms. Denial is a big part of it. Skype helps. Emotional eating plays it’s role. And a good cry on Dave’s shoulder helps a bit.

But the thing is, no matter how long it’s been (10 years) or how happy I am (very), the homesickness never quite goes away. Ironically, going home only seems to make it more acute at times, because as soon as I’m there I think I could never bear to leave. Our recent visit lasted 21 days before we redeparted for Canada. That’s quite a long visit, and I’m going back in less than two weeks. But I still had to bond over pre-departure preparations with my dad, stay up extra late having a cuddle and a laugh with my mom the night before we left and then have a tear as we drove away. I’m a grown, married woman, and even as we left for my other home, I had to convince myself that having a mental breakdown is not warranted. I had to remind myself that I’ll be leaving for even longer to an even farther and much more unknown destination soon.

With a dose of Dave and some the help of two highly trained therapeutic dogs, I made it out of the city limits and into my mother-in-law’s basement. The symptoms have subsided for now.

2 thoughts on “Even The Homeless Get Homesick

  1. While I haven't been away from home for stints quite as long as yours, I can honestly say that his disease runs rampant among those of us who have moved away. I don't think that I need to remind you that I also was a "mom-caller" from sleepovers, Bay Cliff, and Botowogama every year that I was there (and I wasn't young either). I liked to blame it on the scary stories or movies I was forced to be a part of :), but really – home is where we are happiest and even when we create new "homes" its just not the same. While we have all been forced to adjust to the reality that being MQT home wouldn't sustain us on the financial end of survival, its a nice thought that we could go back. I come up with "business plans" for Blake frequently – not very good ones, but I try.

  2. I can't imagine you not going to sleepovers or to the unsupervised German trip! But I know what you mean about feeling homesick. I didn't even grow up in the house my parents live in and I'm still missing it and find it so hard to leave.

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