Homesick

For many of my students, the three-day Savannah field trip is their first time away from their parents for any length of time. And, although they won’t admit it, it’s also their first time really experiencing homesickness.

I could see it in their increased anxiety, expressed through endless questions and clarifications.

I could feel it in their more frequent neediness as certain ones wanted to always be alongside a chaperone.

I could hear it in their voices, unsure of their first night without an adult in their hotel room.

I could sense it in their hesitation, asking if they were allowed to use the microwave in the room or when they should shower.

The homesickness was partly from being away from their usual space and routine.

But it was more from being pulled out of their comfort zone.

Unease arising from navigating new boundaries and undertaking new responsibilities.

Accompanied of a sense of the end of their childhoods and the start of a new chapter.

The first time I remember feeling homesick was during my debut night at college. I had rented a room in a co-op and, as is my nature, I retreated to my space to find some quiet. The addition that enclosed my room was slipshod, and the crumpled newspaper insulation did little to shield against the heat of a late Texas summer. I laid spread-eagle on my futon mattress, sweat darkening the sheets and realized that the purchase and installation of a window air conditioner was solely my responsibility unless I wanted to wait until my mom or then-boyfriend (later infamous ex) could offer assistance.

It was a long night. The unfamiliar sounds of the strangers I lived with filtered through my hollow door. The hot, heavy air seemed to wrap me in its suffocating grasp, keeping pinned to the lumpy bed. I had no phone apart from the public one in the shared space that required the use of a calling card and internet was still limited to a single computer lab on campus. I had a car. A credit card. Yet, since I was still 17, I had to secure permission before seeking medical attention or changing a class. It was a strange sensation, that feeling of no longer belonging in my childhood yet not yet fully independent. I missed the familiar yet I knew it was time to move on.

The next morning, I clumsily navigated to Wal-Mart and wrestled a window air conditioner into the trunk of my car. Several hours, and one long bloody thigh wound later, I finally had the machine installed and humming away. I felt a little less homesick that night.

The only other time I remember feeling homesick was after the divorce. Again, I was pulled away from all that was familiar. Again, I was in limbo, no longer an occupant of my old life and yet not fully part of the new. Again, I felt the overwhelming responsibility of being on my own. Again, I felt the frustration of needing to ask for help for the simplest of matters. Again, I laid on a strange bed listening to strange sounds as I tried to settle into sleep.

And again, as I tackled challenges in my way, I no longer felt as homesick.

Sometimes, the cure for homesickness is to return home.

But sometimes returning is not an option.

And the cure is in letting go of the home that was.

And creating the home that can be.

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