I’ve dealt with homesickness since I first went away to camp for a week in 6th grade. It was the longest I’d ever been away from home, and I was not prepared. That first time, I thought something was really wrong. I felt sick to my stomach constantly and spent most of my time in the nurse’s office. I had no idea I was “just” homesick until I was home and recovering. I hadn’t really missed my parents or my house so much. I had just felt awful.
According to this CNN article, “homesickness isn’t necessarily about home. And neither is it exactly an illness…Instead, it stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home…When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them — and hence home.”
I may be older, but I still get homesick. Usually, it comes in waves. I’ll be totally fine one day and unexpectedly bereft the next. But like the article says, the feeling doesn’t have anything to do specifically with the home Brian and I left. I don’t specifically miss the house we sold to come to Denmark, or our favorite restaurants, or seeing the Arch in the distance. (Oh, but I do desperately miss Target. We live in the city center, and there’s just no big, all purpose store where I can get towels, lamps, shampoo, groceries, and medicine at the same time. I really miss that.)
It’s more that I miss being sure of my surroundings, knowing where everything is and the best way to get there. I miss my job and my coworkers, even though back at home you’d find me complaining about having to get up and go to work every day. I miss my routine and knowing my place and purpose. I miss the familiar.
Part of the problem is probably that I’m not sure what I want to do here in Aarhus, I’m not sure what my new routine should be. Should I try to find a new job? My life has always been focused on work. Even while I was at school I was working, and I’ve rarely – never? – been between jobs but rather always went from one job to the next. But here in Denmark, finding a job is going to be 10x more difficult than in the US, and I have so many other options. I could volunteer. I could pursue another degree. I could focus on Danish lessons. I could plan trips across the globe. I could write the next great American novel. I could become the best expat blogger on the interwebs!
Or perhaps I’m still holding back from fully accepting my new life in Denmark. Perhaps it’s just now hitting me that, no, this is not a prolonged vacation but rather my new reality. It’s a known fact here in our house that I’m slow to warm up to things, and I may still be warming up to my individual, independent experience here in Aarhus.
This week, homesickness has hit me because I’ve caught a cold and have been laying on the couch all week watching American movies. There’s nothing like being sick to make you miss the familiar, especially knowing where to buy cold medicines and which ones to buy! We also just found out that our first niece is about to be born back home! We’re so excited, but it’s a huge bummer that we can’t be there to greet her in person.
The good thing is that I’m here with someone whom I love, my husband and family, which makes the whole experience a thousand times easier. And what I miss most – familiarity – will come. I know that all I need is time and perspective. The latter I get in spades from Brian who, I’m pretty sure, has never been homesick in his life. He adapts too well and is very good at living in the moment. A natural zen master. The former will come naturally. I just have to trust in the process and remember what it’s like to get through homesickness to what lays on the other side.
The summer of 7th grade I went back to summer camp, and I had the best time ever. The camp hadn’t changed at all. I even went with the same people. The only difference was in me.