Wednesday, 19 May 2010

It's not homesickness if you don't miss home, so what is it?

Editor's Note: This blog does not necessarily reflect the mental state of the author, and is merely the by-product of exams and an over-analytical mind.

Homesickness. It's an odd condition. I've seen people inconsolable with homesickness, to the point of hyperventilation, and I've experienced milder forms which usually exhibit themselves through restlessness or listlessness. I've never felt ill, and often think the German word Heimweh or home pain is more accurate. It's a pang that hits when you think you see someone you recognise from home; a stab when you go to text a friend but realise they'll be asleep. It manifests itself through an unconscious sigh, a vacant gaze or a furious bout of activity.

I've been blessed on my current overseas jaunt to have seemingly avoided the curse of homesickness, thanks to quick friendships made, a stable Christian community found in a familiar society with lots to do and an easy routine. I haven't been completely free of nostalgia for home, but it's not the country I miss, or Australians, it's specific traits in my close friends and family.

Having arrived here, I quickly made new friends - people to have coffee with, go travelling with, hang out with, but I also quickly realised just how special my friends back home are. This is not a slight on my friends here, we just don't have the history that makes a friendship go that extra mile, although I hope we may be making that history so that in 5 years when I visit you we can just relax back into the easy friendships we've got here, without any worries.

I miss having a friend to text and say 'hey, walkies right now?' knowing all the problems in the world will have been solved by the end, someone on exactly the same wavelength who understands my frantic hand gestures when I forget a word, someone to dance with when there's no music playing, someone to race against with the crossword. The sense of connection with everyone at uni or in town, knowing there will always be someone to bump into and then hang out with for an afternoon. Long chats at midnight sitting in a car outside someone's house, long chats at midnight standing outside someone's house. Spontaneous trips to the movies 'just because', knowing someone so well no words are needed to invoke fits of laughter over a private joke, someone who understands what I'm really saying underneath my clumsy words. Missing all these things is what homesickness is for me. It's neither crippling nor ever-present, merely an occasional spasm of loneliness.

I sometimes wonder who I will still be in contact with in five years, no matter where in the world we all are. And I don't mean facebook contact, I mean skype, emails, postcards, letters - those deeper forms of communication that must be a substitute for face to face in a long-distance world. Who will I be able to drop in on impulsively without feeling like I'm intruding, who will be on my list of 'want to come to the movies, starts in half an hour' people, who will care when I visit just somewhere other than home, no matter how dull? In who's lives will I participate, who will let me know when they've broken a bone, visited an interesting bookshop or bought a new phone. Because I'm realising it's those little things that define a relationship. If I notice that an old primary school mate has travelled somewhere interesting, I will flick through the photos on facebook because it looks like fun, but for my closer friends I'll look at photos of their new pet sitting on a chair, stool, the floor, and in the bath and I'll comment. I don't care what the subject is, I'm interested because it's important to that person. I might even try to remember the name of the pet.

Without wanting to sound like some kind of chain status update, if you remember doing any of those things thank you. It's the simple things I miss, and I am learning how much I value your friendship for the simple things we do together.


  1. Oh mim, you are sounding very sentimental but you have eloquently expressed the wonders of friendships that are treasured for life. I'm very glad to see the fun you are having fun and it seems you are making the most of every opportunity to experience Europe with others. We all miss your bubbly presence and contemplative views on the world. God bless mim! oxo

  2. What Em said.

    What is there to say except you made me cry. Twice. Why did I read it a second time?!

    Shadow and I miss you and are ready for walkies when you come back. In fact we're ready now. We'll go on one in your honour.