The Real Meaning of Homesickness (it’s not that sad)

When I am away from New York, I miss New York.  No questions asked. No matter what I’m doing, no matter how ideal the moment seems, my mind wanders to the possibilities that a day in New York would lay before me.  Unfortunately, I’d also be really unhappy if I always in New York doing the same things, going to the same places and living the same life.  Like Gretchen Rubin says, “happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”  I know that being in New York would be an easy, cheap, type of happy.  Living abroad and challenging myself is a more fulfilling happy, even when it’s difficult — or when I don’t want to — see that.  It’s those moments when you’re waiting on yet another line or sick of the three pairs of shoes you packed when homesickness takes over.

During the past couple years I’ve realized that I may love Europe, but I love the fantasy of Europe more than the reality.  In my mind I paint gorgeous pictures of well-dressed people sitting for hours in cafes, eating healthy food, reading and mingling.  People there enjoy high quality, people enjoy simply walking.  People enjoy beauty and they enjoy life.  When I’m in Europe, however, the reality never matches my dreams.  People in Europe still look for a good deal, drive cars, have questionable taste and are busy and rushed like Americans and everyone else.  The culture is different, but the differences aren’t always what I wish they were.

It’s a bittersweet realization.  My ideal activites don’t exist only in Europe or only in America, but within me.  Home isn’t an outside place, but an inside place.  Homesickness is less missing the actual, physical place where my parents brought me home and then promptly ordered chinese food (I’d guess tofu and broccoli), but rather a momentary loss of a place within me.

I prefer it like this.  I like to know that the real Europe will never live up to my dreams.  My fantasy Europe is a place inside of me that I can access no matter where I am, no matter what’s going on.  My perfect New York day is a mindset that I can wear no matter where I am.

Home is the place that it’s OK to hate.  There are moments when I hate New York; I still don’t feel entirely comfortable hating Italy.  England is different.  I’ll complain about England, but my love for that country is inexplicable and I will always feel the need to defend it to the end.  New York I can talk trash about and than praise in the same sentence.  I love and hate the weather in New York.  The best and the worst people in the world live there.  It’s the most beautiful city and the ugliest city.  My home, my happiness, exists in contradictions.

I can’t understand these contradictions in Europe and that makes it difficult to remember that home is within me.  Europe is an image on a poster.  Europe is a state of mind.  Europe is in history books and movies.  Europe is outside of me, but I don’t want to lose the Europe within me.  The Europe within me influences me no matter where I am, just like New York and England do.  It’s all a mindset.

Homesickness isn’t the actual missing of a physical place, but temporary confusion.  Fortunately, I’m doing my best to find my home inside of me, even when it would be easier to cry about the lack of apple cider doughnuts in my future.  It’s more fun and more rewarding to figure out how to make myself at home wherever I am, then just to remain in a single place without knowing the highs and lows of homesickness and home.

Do you ever feel homesick?  Do you fantasize about living some place else?


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