When I think about the homesickness I sometimes feel, it almost always is rooted in a deep nostalgia.
“Nostalgia is dangerous.” That was the topic of a lesson in my expository writing class my senior year of college. And in many ways that is true, but I’ve always been one to romanticize the years of my life that are long gone. Even the ones that weren’t so great.
Living abroad is an adventure, full of ups and downs. Some days I feel like I am simply a few hours from the place I once called home. Other days I acutely aware of the distance between me and the mountains of Pennsylvania. When I feel homesick, it typically isn’t for the places I left behind, or even the people, really. Sure I miss the important people in my life, but things like Facebook messenger make it easy for me to keep in touch despite the distance.
Homesickness for the things I can no longer do
Instead, I find myself longing for experiences I no longer have. Listening to live music at an outdoor bar on a warm Friday night. Bar trivia where we start strong and fall behind in the final stretch. Being able to strike up a conversation with the barista at Starbucks. Going to a craft brewery on a sunny summer day. Attending the homecoming game at my alma mater .
These experiences were once my normal, but they haven’t been normal for nearly eight months. My normal has changed so drastically, and some days I mourn what I’ve had to leave behind. Because some days, I don’t feel normal. I stand out in a crowded space, and I can feel when someone’s eyes linger on me just a bit to long. I feel uncomfortable when the store clerk has to take me to the “big size” section even though I wear a small or medium in the States. Sometimes, I just want to be able to try a new restaurant without worrying about whether or not there will be anything I can eat on the menu.
A new normal
I know I am not the only person who feels this way. Bouts of homesickness is a part of living abroad. For many expats, there are moments of longing for the old normal. And for all the moments of nostalgia, there are a hundred more full of wonder and awe that this is really my life. My comfort zone has been stretched further than it ever has before. I’ve learned how to communicate when words fail, to navigate cities across the globe, to balance working full time with being a part-time graduate student. I’ve taken on a new home, a new career, and a new challenge in going back to school. So even though there are moments of doubt and longing, I could never return to the places I’ve been, because I’ll never be the person I was back then.