homesick: defining home

00:19 13 September 2018

hi, i’m starting this at midnight, sitting in the lounge of my hostel, les piaules in belleville. i move hostels tomorrow afternoon and finally get to settle down and write.

i started this post at the boston logan international airport and it started like this:

hi! (it’s september 10th, 2018 22:36)

i’m sitting at the boston logan international airport– my flight is in 45 minutes, so i have to write this pretty quickly.

this summer had a lot of dimensions. one consisted of trying to be a lot of things that i’m not, attempting to continue pursuing things that i consistently try to convince myself that i want. one consisted of unpacking a lot of personal struggles– trying to right a lot of wrongs, all at once. one consisted of waiting. one consisted of confronting myself with my own tendencies and trying to fix it. one consisted of lots of doubt. one consisted of so much confusion. one consisted of comfort and love. one consisted of trusting your past self in having made the right choice.

(oh god, boarding just started)

and then, of course, in a whirlwind, i threw my stuff in my bags and shuffled myself onto a plane, a bigger than any plane i’ve ever been in, to a country and a continent i’ve never been to, by myself, after leaving probably the best 10 consecutive days i’ve ever had.

i cried a lot in the airport. i felt excited for a trip i’ve been looking forward to for the past 6 months– and suddenly i feel homesick for a bunch of different things, a bunch of different people, a bunch of different places all at once. i spent the past 6 months looking forward to this trip, ever since i found out i was studying abroad this quarter.

the past feels so much further away than it should because i pushed it away.”

waiting to get here, i basically let the past 6 months fly by. 6 months filled with people and love and fun and laughter. this is not to say that i didn’t live those 6 months to the best of my ability at the time. however, if i’m being honest with myself: while i reflected on the distance i’ve felt from my friends and my home(s), i realized that i f*cking did it again.

i did this at the end of high school. i blew off my hometown as if stanford was my next step to achieving ultimate happiness. now, i feel so tragically distant from it, the people and the places within it. the past feels so much further away than it needs to because i pushed it away.

at a much smaller scale, i’ve done that these past 6 months. of course, it’s a combination of a number of different things: i’m in my first relationship, things are transitioning, friendships are tested under tests of proximity (or lack thereof) and priority-shifting. i wouldn’t say i completely blew it all off, but i definitely had my mind somewhere else the entire time.

i’ve been waiting to go ~solo backpacking~ and ~travel europe~ and ~live in paris~ and ~*~find myself~*~ and not be tethered to anything other than my next hostel booking or my next flight.

now, i’m at the airport suddenly 2 hours away from even leaving the U.S. and i’m homesick for the first time since i was 12 years old.

i’ve missed my parents while at university. i’ve missed a home-cooked meal. i’ve missed my dogs and a reasonable work-life balance. but, i wouldn’t describe any of those things as homesickness. i never had a desire to go back home or want the state of things to revert to exactly the way that they were, because nothing has ever been too far away or too different to feel missing.

however, i found myself reading and rereading a note austin wrote me before leaving, calling my parents, looking at old pictures from the past year, and just feeling homesick. a cocktail of excitement for what’s to come, gratitude for where i am, but a burning longing for things to be the way that they were just for a little bit. my house and my parents were hardly ever more than an hour and a half away. and even when they were further, i was still constantly surrounded, emotionally supported and stimulated by someone near me.

now, i am alone, sitting in the lounge of my hostel, writing this and sobbing after having another incredible day in paris.

don’t get me wrong, i am having the time of my life. this city is even more than i could have ever imagined it to be. steeped in a rosy glow that makes even the cloudiest days and dirties métro stations look beautiful. i am in awe and excitement as soon as i step out onto that street in the morning. i love getting lost. the discomfort i feel when i’m out and about is solved so easily by simply looking up at the way the sun hits the tops of the buildings.

however, it’s going to bed at night and waking up in the morning that is the hardest part. everything else is so new and refreshing. it’s every time i go to do something that is just a little bit too normal and just a little bit too difficult in a hostel bathroom (or dorm room with 5 sleeping strangers in the pitch dark); those are the moments i feel loneliest and farthest away from home.

i know most people experienced this when they left for college, but this is my first time actually away from home. 

even though i have looked forward to this trip for a while, i had no real expectations regarding what my first couple of days would look like here. i knew i would figure it out once i got here, but i didn’t know what that would look or feel like.

it’s empowering, lonely, daunting, and magical all at once. empowering when you breathe in a language that sounds so foreign yet familiar at the same time. lonely when you want to call someone, but they’re all fast asleep in timezones where a call would be ludicrous. daunting, all the time, while the magic creeps in when you least expect it.

“it’s empowering, lonely, daunting, and magical all at once.”

it’s only been a few days, but i think this was the exact wake-up call that i needed. i am far from closure, and i think i always will be, however, every “dimension” i had written about before hopping on that plane in boston all makes a lot more sense here, while i’m 4000-6000 miles away from all of it.

whether it considers my desires, my shortcomings, my relationships, my sense of self– it comes from this inexplicable discomfort with myself and that, for some reason, my concept of what home is has been lost on me.

home is walking through the front door and seeing my dad asleep on the recliner with my dogs. home is my mom chattering about the latest nugget of wisdom she gave her class during dinner. home is talking to my brother about everything while simultaneously blabbering absolute nonsense for hours. home is coming back from class and seeing elie taking a nap with harry on the couch. home is brenna saying “hey beeb!” as we hug after not seeing each other for a couple months. home is waking up to austin kissing me on the cheek. home is every stupid video, meme, vine, tumblr post that is ever sent to me by will, meredith, gabe, ibrahim, adam, swetha, anyone.

home isn’t a single town or concept. it’s not even a cohesive community that you can just leave or come back to.

home is every single person that has ever made me feel like myself, whether i knew who i was at the time, or not. home is every single place i have cultivated peace, privacy, and familiarity. home is anyone i can hug, and feel relief in doing so.

and everything i have learned and unpacked this summer is just the slow and painful arrival to the conclusion:

i do, indeed, have a home. my feelings of stagnancy and loneliness that i experience when i am home all stem from my previous inability to maintain that home well.

just like you wouldn’t neglect your house, your plant, or your pet– you need to actively care for the things and the people you care about. you can’t keep searching for your happiness somewhere else, or your comfort in things that are yet to come. you have it, so just find it now. keep it now. nurture it until your last dying breath, dammit.

i’ve told myself this so many times. i feel like i’ve written this so many times. but i will keep having this epiphany over and over again if i have to. whatever it takes to make the lesson stay.

while i wish i didn’t have to take a 6-hour plane ride to get here, i am glad that i did.

—-

i’m in paris at the moment, in europe until december, and will start my study abraod program in paris next saturday. 

follow my day to day happenings at @izzyenfrancais, or once in a while happenings at @izzyangus on instagram.

love always. truly.

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2 Comments

  1. Charles love

    Dear Izzy,

    I most sincerely hope that Europe is treating you well. I’ve been meaning to reach out, but didn’t quite know how. How does one reach out to someone who is in another world. In a whole different concept than you’re in? Rather than send some obscure email that may or may not reach you as you’re out gallivanting in the City of Lights, I wanted to respond to this post, in the moment.

    I’ve had an epiphany since we’ve last spoken (and I do apologize for not being in touch sooner than this): everyone is asking a question. For some, it is ‘what?’. For others, it is ‘how?’. For those like us, it is ‘why?’. Why do we feel the things that we feel? Why do we keep repeating ourselves? Why do we always want to be right yet always end up wrong? In Raisin in the Sun, Asagai tells Beneatha that she often asks: Why are we here and why are we bothering? And she tells him that he cannot answer it. And he shouts: I LIVE THE ANSWER. And for us, we might learn something from his outburst. We live the answer. We are the solution to our own problems. The questions of home and satisfaction and direction and action and inaction are all answered by us merely being here. I know this may seem deep. Esoteric, even. But, that’s me, as you know. So, maybe the next time you think on home with sadness and sickness, you will notice that the pain comes from the wound that is a question. And, in response to that pain, you will say ‘I Live The Answer’.

    -Charles L. Wattley III

    P.S. Don’t Forget to Rank Meier!

    Like

    1. Izzy

      hello, my dear friend!

      thank you so much for writing me, and thank you so much for sharing this. this makes me miss you and our late night revelations that i hope to have more of in meier (!!!!).

      we do live the answer. as hard as it is to keep in touch with that stark, grounding, and beautiful revelation, we do, of course, live the answer. all of the pain, confusion, dissatisfaction, frustration and also the joy, contentment, wonder, and love we face everyday is all a part of the answer. we are the answer.

      thank you so much for reminding me of this. i will hold onto this message so dearly while i am away.

      so, so much love,
      izzy

      Like

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