It might feel a little too convenient to be writing about it during the holiday season, but it wasn’t on purpose. That also doesn’t mean that the holiday season won’t make it worse than it already is for those who aren’t close to family and friends. And guess what! We have an extra little something to add up to this wonderful (irony plaque) mix: the pandemic. What a time to feel homesick…
Homesickness is a symptom when you leave your home – as simple as that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you chose to move overseas, you can feel it when you go study in another city, when you get transferred to Tulsa (like Mrs. Chanandler Bong), or when you moved to another neighborhood and miss your old friends. If you want to go technical on it, Huffpost have a great article on that, but it will lead you through this statement: there’s no right formula for that to be manifesting. But there are many ways to feel it, though.
Storytime: I had to learn to deal with this in the very early stages of my life. When I was somewhere between 5 and 6 years old, my father got transferred (not to Tulsa) to the South of Brazil, and he, my mother, and I had to leave our family and friends in the Southeast of Brazil (São Paulo <3). To be quite honest here, I was too young to leave any strong friendship… Except for one: Desirée, my first real friend, whom I met at swimming classes, and we are still good friends nowadays! Love you, girl! Three years later, when I got back to the southeast, Desirée had welcomed her younger sister, Ingrid, who is also one good friend of mine and we have shared many memories of our childhood together. Good times 🙂
I had a great time in the South of Brazil, but there wasn’t much to be worried about because I was super young. I remember, though, very clearly how my parents missed their friends and family. Brazil is a huge country and each region has a great cultural gap between them, so it’s not easy to adapt to some places. We ended up moving back home for nearly 8 years (I don’t recall exactly) and then we moved back to the South, but that time, to another state. I had just turned 13 years old then, so the memories are fresher… And harder. I was at the beginning of my teenage years, which means I was strongly attached to the friends I had at home (Desirée and Ingrid being two of them, but now along with many other special people). When I got to the South, I didn’t fit with the other kids there for quite a while. I felt homesick all the time. I wanted to go back home so badly… Cut the violins and the sad song: a year later, I finally made friends which I love to the moon and back and we have kept in touch ever since. I was finally feeling like I could build a new home there! But guess what happened then 😀 Yes, my father got transferred again. Back to Southeast… but to the countryside. Seriously, no teenager should go through that… But I regret nothing!
When we got to a not-so-small town in the countryside of São Paulo, I was welcomed very fast. People there were amazing, they were trying to make us feel at home and I have tons of amazing friends from this city, I love them all (I am a lovable person). My parents loved living there… But I didn’t. I was feeling homesick because I love São Paulo and its vibes so much, even though I had – and still have – amazing friends with me. Something was always (tacky alert) missing from my life puzzle. I finally moved back to São Paulo when I got into college and I got to be close to those friends from when we were in school. We are still very close, so much I consider them as my own family – and they always supported me, just like they are, indeed, my family (thanks folks!). Needless to say, I have made so many great friends in college and at many of my workplaces too!
Living in São Paulo got me covered. I was home. I was near my blood family, my chosen family, my beloved town… Cut the storyboard to nine years later, here I was, moving to Portugal. I know you don’t need to say it. I will say it myself: no, I cannot keep myself from moving around. It’s in my blood, you have read my story! And no surprise here: I feel homesick SO MUCH! But I chose to be here. So I just have to deal with something that has been, and will always be, a part of my life.
Feeling homesick is being attached to not only your roots but your references too. It’s hard to deal with when you never felt it, it will bring you a sudden sadness and you will feel guilty for doing whatever it is that you are doing. I remember I was having a conversation with my father on the phone in 2019, nearly a year after I moved by myself to Portugal, and I was learning how to be homesick on my own for the very first time. He was worried, but I wasn’t. I don’t have any clue how I managed to stay so calm, but something inside me told me that it was okay. I told him that I had chosen that path and I knew that this would happen anytime. I said that I was aware of the sadness, but I was embracing it because it would help me grow. Somehow, I knew that letting this feeling pass by and taking its time inside my heart would teach me how to deal with myself, how to be by myself, and how to love it, even though it is a hard thing to go through. Thank God I did it… Because homesickness will never leave you. You just have to learn how to love it and things will be easier, day by day.
Dealing with homesickness is not always easy. You can try to find familiar references to warm your heart up, like pictures and gifts. I am super lucky because four of my friends-I-call-family gave me a matryoshka doll representing us on the eve of my moving day and whenever I feel like I need them, I smile at this doll and appreciate how lucky I am to have them (you can see it on my Public Relation main page here!). You can also check Buzzfeed’s list on how to handle homesickness (those guys have lists for everything), but I will share with you what helps me feel better when this hits me:
- Stay in silence.
Feeling homesick is pure attachment. Learning how to be happy on your own and embrace even the not so good feelings will make you stronger, self-aware, and wiser. Cry your heart out if you feel like it, watch tacky movies if it’s your vibe, meditate for an entire weekend… Connecting to your inner self will make it easier.
- Pamper yourself.
Do whatever makes you feel better. Cook a meal you used to eat back home, play a game that brings your best memories, go crazy on a spa night at your bathroom, be a volunteer, create a project (hello, Airport Party!)… Taking care of yourself will help you bond with your new home too.
- Create new memories.
You don’t have to let go of the ones you already have and love. Your heart and mind are infinite, you might not have it all in life (yet), but you can have it in your soul. To be a tourist in your own city might be a good start 🙂
- Say hello.
Call your loved ones. Say you miss them, tell them how much you love them and that you would love to be sharing all of this you are now living with them too. Just try not to pick this relief too often because you have to learn how to live without being so close to those people all the time. Independence and space are good tools too 🙂
- Balance things out
Running away from your feelings, pretending they are not there, will only make more damage. Embrace your feelings, but don’t let them rule you. You cannot control what you feel, but you can, absolutely, control your actions and thoughts about it.
Whatever you do, do it for your own good. If something that was supposed to make you feel good has the opposite effect, just change the strategy. It’s all an adjustment on your new – or not so new – life choices. Sometimes you even have to do some adjustment to those adjustments and it will feel, but if you did it once, it’s easy to do it again.
However, I have one special request for you, that came this far into this article: pay attention to your emotional and mental health, and if it’s the case, seek some professional help. It will help you a lot. Growing up is hard enough, we don’t need any more trouble 🙂