What do you call a homesickness for a home that’s not your home ?
When you’ve lived for a decade, maybe not necessarily a decade, maybe five years or so in a country that’s not your home country, and you’ve adjusted there, you had lived there for a while, you have experienced love and sadness, success and failure, and not necessarily all these fluctuating emotions, but you’ve come to love every part of that town, the streets and corner cafés, the walls, the culture, the respect and the free smiles in the morning from strangers, the respect for lines everywhere, and the respect for seniors or younger people, and being treated regardless of your social class.
When the first five questions you are asked by someone you just met don’t refer to your social class or degrees, or your father’s occupation. When you’re treated solely for being human and for what you do from that moment on towards that person you just met, and not based on your past experience, religious or social backgrounds.
When people only care about your experience as it’s reflected in your behaviour towards them, and not asking you about it upfront, or anything personal you might not be comfortable to disclose.
When you’ve loved that city that you’ve secretly called home for a while, but never quite told your family or anyone in your ‘real’ home that you actually felt like home abroad… And you loved every part of that society, even the walls in the streets, that don’t necessarily have anything fancy about them but you just liked those walls, and you don’t know why… You like that wall by which you had that long walk where you mentally drafted an e-mail, a letter or a project, or just going over your life, or just not thinking about anything in particular, probably just peacefully admiring the trees, or the rain drops on colourful leaves, and holding a coffee from that favourite corner cafe.
And you don’t necessarily know all the streets because you go out all the time, but maybe just because you love how that town makes you feel, that safety, the quietude, that serenity knowing you could spend half an hour or more, just walking alone, without anything interrupting your chain of thoughts, no violence, no abrupt bickering, no crazy drivers, no stranger coming at you for no reason, no person frowning at you just because they’re having a bad day.
When you go to that corner cafe in the morning to grab your coffee, and people are all smiles, for free. They are not smiling because you’re dressed well or because they know you, they are simply smiling because they know they’re not losing anything for smiling. Yes, sometimes you could see someone who’s not smiling, neutral, just like you could be feeling sometimes- and that’s fine, neutral is good too, but often here, in our own home, you might have your day ruined just because somebody hadn’t had his morning cigarette, and he picks a fight with you just because you politely told him there is a line as he tried to steal your turn.
So you like that town, and love its culture, and you like every little detail about it, and then one day..you are done there, because you finished school, grad school –or any program that was the reason you initially travelled, thinking you would complete it and go back home for that brilliant career your foreign diploma can guarantee you, unaware of the tremendous lifetime impact that trip is holding for you– and it is time to leave the country voluntarily, and often involuntarily.
You go back home and you feel off place with the reverse cultural shock. Chances are you probably never fully fit in even before going abroad, maybe even in your own home before you explored the newfound home, you never really felt like home, because you didn’t really agree with the culture, the society and its contradictions, but you just never experienced better, so you sucked it in and lived with it. But when you finally went to that place, that actually gave you all those intangible things that you somehow felt you craved deep inside, but weren’t quite aware of, and where people understood you, and the culture offered you elements that aligned with your principles, and made you feel understood the way you wished to be understood. Then slowly, over the years, the bittersweet reality that you now have experienced something better and that there is no going back grows on you.
When you go back home, you’re hoping to adjust, you are trying to, and the more you try to adjust, the more you contrast and compare,- and the more you contrast, the more people get infuriated, telling you not to, and to accept that you are back home now, –It is as though the judge has made an irreversible decision, you are in jail, reminiscing the outer world, and a fellow inmate tells you to accept you’re in jail now– Maybe there is a little envy in them because they never experienced better, maybe they think they want your own good and out of good intentions ask you to deal with your own reality right now.
But why do you feel homesick for a country that’s not your home? You try to figure out why…
I believe it’s a lot like when you fall in love with somebody and you don’t even know that it happened, and you dont know how it happened. Maybe because they understandingly listened to you when you were very upset, maybe because they made you feel like they knew exactly how you felt that moment you were dealing with the residue of denigration or a wrongful act, or maybe they managed to make you laugh because a sense of humor always makes us like people, or maybe because they reflect you – But then all those things add up and you find yourself loving somebody without knowing why, that, I believe to be the same process that transpires when you’ve lived somewhere that provided the safety, the serenity, the free smiles, the respect, somewhere that reflected your own principles and being.
You fully realized you fell in love with that town, that country, but now you have to go back home. You know you are missing something, and that you will be every day, you know what it is, but you’d rather keep distracting yourself and pretending that you don’t know what it is, than face the vortex of reality.
You try your best to adjust, knowing that you probably won’t, realizing that the more you try to adjust the more homesick you become for that home… that is not your home.