Friday, 26 September 2014

coping with homesickness (a how-to guide).

With Fresher's Week just behind us, I've been thinking a lot lately about the roller coaster that is moving away. It's honestly something that flicks across my mind probably once a day, like when I realise it's seven o'clock and therefore too late to do a bit of shopping. Or when I have a mad craving for Chick-fil-A. (Sigh.) 

But delicious fried chicken aside, moving away can be hard. Whether it's 200 or 2000 miles away, living somewhere that isn't "home" can be exciting, thrilling, and really sad. I think I can speak on behalf of all expats in saying that homesickness doesn't ever entirely disappear. It just sort of...abates, with occasional flare ups. And like most expats, I've developed some techniques to help me cope. I'm sharing them today in the hopes that maybe they'll help you, too.

1. Realise that being homesick does not mean you're a failure.

When you're feeling homesick, it's easy to beat yourself up about it. 

"Oh, stop whining, you've always wanted to do this!"
"Talk about first world problems."
"Woe is me, I live in a beautiful thriving international city and get to travel the world."

Any of that sound familiar? Those are all things I have said to myself when I've felt homesick. It took me a while to realise that on top of not making me feel better, those are some mean things to say. I would never say those things to a homesick friend, so why should I say them to myself? 

Yes, living abroad is a magnificent opportunity for many of us. And yes, there are always people elsewhere in the world facing bigger struggles. But that doesn't negate your own difficulties. You're allowed to be homesick. It doesn't mean that you're a failure or a coward or any of the things Butthead You says you are. You are still fantastically brave. You don't owe the world constant, blinded gratitude for the chances you've had. You're allowed to have a bad time and so is everyone else. 

2. Talk about it.

I am the queen of denying my homesickness. I hate admitting that things aren't going along exactly as I planned. But talking about my homesickness always makes me feel better, even if my husband has to finagle me into talking. Talk to your friends, your significant other, your cat...just don't let it sit inside and fester. Skype your family and feel the love. I personally love a good group message with friends to make me feel like we're all together again.

3. Wallow for a bit...and then get out there! 

Sometimes you need a good wallow. If I'm having a really hard time, I treat myself to something that reminds me of home--Cheetos from the import store, a Starbucks latte, six hours of Gilmore Girls--anything that I wouldn't normally allow myself to have. Once I've been armed with American goodness, it's time for battle. Yes, battle. Sometimes you have to battle the scared you for possession of your expat experience. Scared you says it's raining and you can't explore. Scared you says you'll get lost. Scared you says everyone hates Americans. 
Scared you can be a dodo brain. 
Plan a day trip, buy a map, tell people you're Canadian* and get out of the house. A bit of a wallow is good, but you'll never fall in love with where you are unless you try. Even if it's just a trip to the grocery store or a cafe, work on making where you are feel like home. Try to bloom where you're planted. Nobody else can do the work for you. If you really want to have a good experience, you're going to have to put in some effort. Remind yourself why you came here in the first place. Was it to sit on your couch binge-watching Gilmore Girls? Probably not.

As time passes, your homesickness probably will, too. You'll be able to enjoy the differences between your old and new homes. New friends and adventures will come along, sometimes making you wonder how you ever lived anywhere else. 


PS: Don't worry, you're going to be fine. :)

* Everyone loves Canadians. And seriously, most people outside the U.S./Canada can't tell the difference between our accents. Use with caution. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm wondering if there's a secret ocean between Texas and Florida, because I've felt very far from home this week...Thank you for sharing! Xoxo


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