Homesickness: Fact or Fiction?

If you know me at all, you know I’m one to take risks. I’d rather jump off the deep end than ease in from the shallow side. This is how I ended up in South America. Why go to college close to home when you can get on a plane and go to another part of the world for a year? So far this thinking is working well for me. However, there’s a misconception that people who dive into the deep end also never look back.

“Are you homesick?” A frequent question I get. The short answer, no. The long, well… keep reading.

I was hesitant to write this because I don’t want people thinking I’m having a bad time or want to go home–that’s completely incorrect. My life here is still great. But I also feel a bit cold when I solemnly answer “no,” as if my life before was so mundane that I’ve already forgotten it.

So no, I’m not homesick. That’s the truth. No part of me wants to board the next plane to Minneapolis. However, I still often think of my life back home and although I’m not homesick, there are still things I miss.

It goes like this: while driving to school here I’ll think of how I’d walk to school in the fall. I’ll remember that autumn smell in the air and the sound of the leaves and I’ll think, I miss that.

Or, I’ll be at an ice cream shop and remember eating the melty top layer of ice cream from the container with my mom right after we’d brought it home from the store and I’ll think, I miss that, too.

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When someone asks me about carving pumpkins, something not done here, I’ll remember my dad calling me “Pumkin,” and I’ll even miss rolling my eyes when he tells, yet again, the story with the nickname (ask him for details).

I miss the smell of my mom’s French toast cooking on a Saturday morning, chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin spice lattes, my cat’s persistent meowing. I miss sleepovers at my grandma’s, late night baking with my closest friends.

The part hard to convey in words is how these memories make me feel isn’t homesick. The only sad part about them is how I didn’t appreciate them as much as I wish I had. The sad truth is, I didn’t realize how much I loved my life until I left it. Again, this isn’t because my life here is bad, because it’s not. But when you take away what you’ve always had and surround yourself with a new world, the important parts don’t fade away, they become clearer.

I’ve never had a moment here where I thought, “Wow, I really miss those expensive shoes I bought!” or “I’m so happy I worried so much about always having perfect hair!” No, those are the parts that are fading.

I become more grateful with each memory that surfaces. Grateful for eighteen years of sleepovers at my grandma’s, for chocolate chip cookies and cool autumn breezes. For French toast, nicknames, and perfectly melty ice cream.

I’ve never wished to grow up faster. From the time my dad said I was too big for piggy backs, I wanted to be smaller again.

That’s why the day I turned from my family at the airport, there were tears in my eyes. I realized then that my life wasn’t just changing for a year, it was changing forever. I don’t get to be a kid anymore. And I’m not going to lie, that part does make me sad but the beautiful truth of missing what you had is that it means what you had is worth missing. It means you were lucky. And by God, was I ever.

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I’ve had parents who’ve supported me from odd requests such as “I want to play the harp,” to “I want to go to South America.” I’ve had an extended family that made family get-togethers something I loved. I’ve had a church community that is not just my church, but my family.

I’ve had so much yet I’ve appreciated so little. While this makes me a little mad at myself, it doesn’t make me sad because, although that last paragraph is written in the past tense, I know that it’s still my present.

I have a church family that loves and supports me, even from so far away. I have the best (sometimes craziest) extended family. I have the best, supportive parents.

Coming here did not make me lose any of these things, it’s only extending my list.

I know that a year from now, I’ll miss the smell of the tea-like drink Cocido. I’ll miss seeing the skyline of Argentina across the river peeking through the morning mist each day. I’ll miss singing in the band and the sound of my sibling’s laughter.

Many say that thinking of home will only make you sad– but for me, it’s the opposite. I’m not homesick because I know I won’t take for granted the details I now know I cherish. Just because something is in your past doesn’t mean it can’t still be in your future.

Mom, even when you’re 99 I’ll buy us melty ice cream to eat together. I’ll come home from college just to get pumpkin spice lattes with you. Dad, I’ll always be your pumkin (I also still accept piggy back rides if you were wondering). And Grandma, I hope you realize I’m still planning on having sleepovers at your house.

There is no age limit to do the things you love. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity because I now see how precious each day really is. What I’ve realized is this– you can either live in moments you realize you love later, or you can love the moments that you live in now.

 

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This guest post was written by Jackie Warehime, an 18 year old girl from Minnesota who is currently spending her exchange year in Paraguay. Want to read more from her then visit her blog  Jackie in Paraguay

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