Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What does it mean to be homesick?

The concept of being "homesick" is kind interesting, and not as easy to define as I would have thought. My 3 1/2 year old recently learned the word but she doesn't quite get it yet. She'll tell us she's homesick after a 5 minute car ride to Target. Recently she claimed to be homesick during family outing at the mall. We try to explain that's not really how the word is used, but she insists that because she wants to go back to our house she must be homesick. And that got me thinking...

What is homesickness? Do you have to be gone for a certain amount of time? A certain distance?

I get homesick easily and always have, I suspect that's common among people with anxiety disorders. I was that kid who called her parents to pick her up from sleepovers (which is even more embarrassing than having a friend catch you sucking your thumb, believe it or not). It didn't happen every time, but enough to be memorable. As a kid, and even into my teen years, I preferred to stick close to home, for example I preferred to go to day camps (Camp Christmas Tree represent) rather than sleep-away camps. But despite my predisposition to homesickness, I always assumed I would go to college back in the New England. My family moved to Minnesota when I was 7 and the transition had been really rough, in a way I had been feeling homesick for the east for years.

When I was about 16 years old I went away to hockey camp in New Hampshire at Dartmouth. I was shocked to realize that New England was no longer home (had a little culture shock, doncha know). In those weeks away I felt extremely homesick (although my hockey skills got wicked awesome), to a degree that would only be topped by my time studying abroad (but that's another story). I couldn't wait to get home to Minnesota, to my parents, siblings, and friends. That's when I decided I was going to go to college in Minnesota after all (much to my parents' delight).

I still felt homesick when I was first starting college, even if it was only an hour from home. The first night, in particular, was horrible. The there was only one other person on my floor (and he was an upperclassman with friends and no need to talk up the shy kid down the hall), the shower had no hot water, my new towel left me covered in itchy blue fuzz, and I ended up curled up crying alone watching The Empire Strikes Back, unable to sleep. But eventually Carleton became home too, and when I left I was homesick for it too.

I guess any place can become home eventually if you can fill it with people you love and happy memories. Maybe that's why I never got homesick on family vacations, and why I don't think my daughter can be homesick when we're sitting together at Red Lobster. But I still think I'll stay in Minnesota forever. Just to be safe.

6 comments:

  1. We moved and traveled a lot when I was a kid. The most was when we lived in 25 different houses in 14 months not counting the times we went back to the same place again. For us, home was wherever our toothbrushes were. Now I have my own family and I can still say that home is wherever we are all together!

    On that note, I get homesick too but my problem is that I don't know which home I am longing for. It's more of an idealized home than an actual place.

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    1. wow, 25 houses in 14 months? that's constant moving basically. I think I would have had a nervous breakdown as a kid. It took me years to getover moving to MN at all

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  2. We have moved (and are making another move next week!) 4 times over the past 7 years and I always feel guilty that my kids haven't been able to call a place home for more than 2 years. I moved once as a kid when I was 13 and I thought it was the end of the world. My kids seem pretty happy with everything, but a lot of times they would rather be together doing something and staying home rather than doing things with their friends. My oldest even tells me he is only going to a college that is nearby so he can live at home. I think it has made our family unit closer.

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    1. It's my dream that my kids will go to school near home too. I wonder if not moving as a kid will make one more or less likely to want to stay near home for college and beyond... since I was the oldest and I stuck around, by my sister will never come back

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  3. The thought of someone living in the same place their whole life boggles the mind a little. The only place I've ever been homesick for is France. I think I was meant to live there. But I'm here, instead.

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  4. I was born and raised in Ohio, I met my husband on a 12 week long mission trip in New Jersey and ended up getting sucked into moving up here to Minnesota where he's from. It was interesting to "watch" my mentality shifting over time. For about the first year, I would say things like, "I want to visit home soon" meaning I wanted to go visit my family in Ohio (aka home). But after about a year, I noticed that upon arrival back in Minnesota after a visit to Ohio, I would say things like, "Ahhh... finally home." I remember saying to Jake, "I noticed I've started calling Minnesota home."

    It's a weird transition to make, but it seems that everything is relative and if you don't feel like you're "home" yet, wherever you are, just give it enough time and I think eventually it will become "home".

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