The thing about homesickness is, it’s sneaky. It’s sneaky and slippery and doesn’t let you know it’s coming until it has wrapped its tentacles around you, pulling you back towards a time, a place, a people. And then it just sits there, like an unwanted acquaintance, the slightly Machiavellian kid who wants to play with you but who you really don’t want to play with because they’re draining and depressing and they don’t make you feel good.
Another thing about homesickness is that, like the guest who wears out their welcome (the guest who wasn’t ever really welcome in the first place, but is a known inevitability) it needs to stay a while. Bed down in your abode, share your coffee, catch the bus with you, come to parties. It likes to make itself comfortable. Impose itself on your new life. Check out the nooks and crannies of your new home (it’s doing this so when you move on from this home, it can visit your next one and whisper, ‘but don’t you misssss drinking wine in your bright little kitchen and having thossssse fabuloussss discusssionssss with your marvelousssss flatmate?’)
It also strikes at inopportune times, its little tentacles tightening their grip during moments in which it knows you don’t have the luxury of bursting into irrational tears in private. Like, for example, at dinner parties, or someone’s birthday celebration. When everybody else around you is in fine form, revelling in good cheer, laughing uproariously because they are surrounded by loved ones, yourself included, you sit there like a dolt, eyes glazed, blinking furiously and trying not to think about how much that person laughs like your Mum.
The other thing, perhaps the most confusing thing, about homesickness is that it can co-exist with happiness. It can actually snuggle in alongside relative contentment. Just because it’s there, smiling sleepily at you when you wake, waving idly as you enjoy a glass of wine in pleasant company, breathing down your neck at dinner parties, doesn’t mean you want to give up. Doesn’t mean you hate your new home. It doesn’t mean you wish you were anywhere but where you are. Not at all. To complain of homesickness isn’t to wave the white flag and pull up stumps.
It’s just to feel a little sick for your home. A little world-worn and weary. A little like you want to crawl under the covers of your old bed and have your Mum bring you a cup of tea. A little like you want to spend a Saturday night on the couch with your best friends and pizza. A little like you want to bask in the warmth of the old familiar for a little while.
It’s no big deal. It passes. Soon, it packs its little bag and waves goodbye, promises to be back (and it will) and disappears. You move on, keep doing what you’re doing, keep loving and living where you are.
Because, the final thing about homesickness, is it isn’t all bad. When it has loosened its grip, and slithered back to where it came from, when tears no longer well in public because someone on a billboard looks like your Dad, you understand what it really does. Homesickness reminds you, in case you had forgotten, as you galivant around the world, how lucky you are to have had what you did. And, if it is there waiting for you, patient and warm and familiar as ever, that you are truly blessed.