September 27, 2006 lia

Cultural Lesson #2: The Benefits of Homesickness

Not that I even have a “home” to begin with, but fine. I’ll admit it. If you couldn’t tell from the amount of time I spend writing, I will spell it out for you: I AM HOMESICK.

I had no problem surviving the lonely birthday, I’ve never complained about the complete lack of water, toilets, lack of lighting in both my bedroom and the living room when I don’t turn on the light before 6pm [tonight I turned on both lights at 6:10pm after getting home from playing football with the neighbourhood kids, and neither light is working, so I only have the glow of my laptop for the rest of the evening, unless I want to hang out on the concrete floor of my kitchen], plus the weekly scheduled power outages.

But what I didn’t survive is opening my iTunes for the first time since I arrived. Specifically “Your ex-lover is dead” by the Stars.

Should I torture myself and listen to Buena Vista Social Club too?

I thought I was too old for homesickness. When I was 21 and moved to Japan for the first of three times, homesickness almost killed me. But then I learned to treat it like an emotional experiment. I started tracking my bouts of homesickness and realised that they generally followed a four week cycle – the cycle started the day I realised I hadn’t even thought about home in a long time. The next day I would wake up almost de-capacitated from homesickness, barely able to drag myself out of bed or deviate from conversing about the mountains, the ocean, and what northwest coast rainforests look like.

When I next settled down after leaving Japan, I was in Montreal and had mostly gotten over homesickness, despite Montreal still being 5000 km from where I grew up, and unfamiliar in terms of language and culture [I spoke French when I moved to Montreal – I still had to learn Quebecois]. I had few friends to distract me from myself, I was experiencing the effects of seasonal depression for the first time, and I was even quite lost about what exactly I was doing in Montreal. I soon realised that the same cycles of homesickness I had had in Japan were being manifest as even less desirable emotions in Montreal, and I had a minor epiphany:

When you’re away from home and homesick, everything that’s bad is experienced as homesickness. When you’re settled in a normal life, everything that’s bad is experienced as terrifying things such as…oh, ho hum….grappling with your own meaninglessness in the world….loneliness…..boredom from the monotony of normalcy.

It was around this same time that I developed a philosophy that I have chosen to live by for six years now, and counting:

Life’s a distraction. Go get distracted.

[Life’s a distraction? From what you ask? Insert issue here. I invite questions/challenges on this one…it’s more simple/complex than it sounds]

Today, my life’s a distraction from homesickness.

Comment (1)

  1. Wow, you blog is a great read. My favorite is the conversations you write up. I think Lost in Translation II needs to be based on your experiences. And it makes me want to write more such as how no Ghananian can describe where to find anything.

    Anyway, yeah, I’ve been struggling with the same issues of homesickness (why the hell am I here?) versus settling down (boring!). I think I am going to need to find a happy medium. Travelling is definitely a distraction.

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