So we’re having another hurricane today. It’s becoming a routine thing, like grocery shopping day or garbage day (crap, that’s today too. Rubbish bins and hurricanes- awesome combo.) Anyways, Cyclone Lusi has actually been downgraded to a mere “tropical storm”, the winds are only 50km/hr and my roof is only leaking in 4 different spots. So what’s to complain about?
There’s just nothing to do (besides housework), so I thought, hey- great time to update that online story telling thing you never update anymore. But the problem is this… usually I have an idea for a post, or I’ve recently done something cool. But I scrolled through my photos and- nope!- haven’t done anything cool since the last time I posted. I’ve worked a lot, including night shift, which I mentioned once wasn’t that bad and I must have been delirious from night shift because it is that bad and it ruins all my fun.
So here I am, finally sleeping at night again, finally cleaning up and breathing deep after having 4 months of visitors, and finally sitting down to relax. There’s a cyclone outside so I can’t ride (had an awesome one yesterday though) and Scott’s off at a bike race. Yes, he’s nuts. So in the quiet of the living room, with only the trees slapping the windows and the flickering lights to comfort me- what am I thinking about? What should I write about?
I think to myself: it’s sunny in California right now. You’re missing a friend’s wedding next weekend. It’s spring time, the grass is green and everything has that awesome almost summer smell. Babies are growing up and have never met you. The race season is about to start and you’re missing your favorite race, again. You’re going to miss St. Patrick’s Day festivities in a place where you can bike to the Irish pub and Guinness will be affordable.
I think to myself: I wish I were home.
I wrote an article for Expats Blog back in March 2013 about homesickness. I talked about eating healthy and staying active, and surrounding oneself with happy people. Although I don’t exactly disagree with what I wrote then, I will be the first to say that my words came from a place of ignorance. I had been in New Zealand for 10 weeks. That’s nothing. That’s an extended vacation. And with that in mind, I’ll admit now that my homesickness is likely different at 15 months than for someone who’s been away 5 years. Or 10.
But it’s very real now. It’s tangible and sometimes it’s ugly. It sneaks up when somebody innocently asks me about where I came from or what I miss. I miss everything!, I want to scream, even though that’s not true at all. Sometimes the longing for home is literally painful, right inside my soul, like I’ve lost a beloved pet or even a friend. Other days it’s more like longing or lust- like I’m 13 again, and thinking about that cute boy (California) all day while I do my homework and piano lessons. Harmless.
In 12 weeks we’re going home – actually to several places in California and Oregon that have been or feel like home to us. It’s just for a visit, 33 days that will probably fly by all too quickly. I’m so excited, but I’m also scared.
What if it’s different than I remembered? What if the burritos actually don’t appeal anymore? What if the salads aren’t as fresh as I recall? What if I hate the fashion there as much as I do here? What if everything seems expensive? Or worse- feels cheap? What if my favorite restaurants are closed? What if the beer somehow doesn’t taste amazing (ok, Im not really worried about that one)… but what if these experiences that I am so excited about don’t live up to the pedestal I’ve put them on? What if my friends have moved on? What if they’ve changed? What if I’ve changed?
Assuming all of these fears are for naught, and every moment is amazing- then what? What if I want to move home immediately? Where would we go, what would we do? What is the plan? There is no plan.
And so, these thoughts flurry around my head, like raindrops from a hurricane. Smashing around, creating waves and deluges of thoughts and expectations. Happy drops and sad drops. All amounting to a flood of emotion.
I think it may have all started when we purchased our tickets to come home. That’s surely when the anticipation began, and the memories started bouncing back. We have to do this, I can’t wait to do that. We have to go there, we have to see them. And not long after we bought the tickets, 4 months worth of Californians started visiting, bringing wonderful tokens of life back home with them. Reminders of what we have to look forward to, but also of what we chose to leave behind.
Let me make something clear though. This choice to move in New Zealand has arguably been the best decision of my life. (Well, second best. Love you, babe.) I am living in another country. Not visiting, not working temporarily. And by living I mean truly experiencing- making friends, seeing the country, learning traditions, accepting the shortcomings.
Homesickness, no matter how deep and sometimes agonizing, still only gets to be a fraction of my experience. I think it’s important that I keep trying to come to terms with it’s existence, and that I recognize it is just a challenging but unavoidable “side effect” of getting to experience life away from California. It’s not a reflection at all on New Zealand, it’s a reflection of how great life was at home.