Monday, November 18, 2013

Adults Can Feel Homesick Too?

It's been ages since I felt even slightly motivated to write anything, ugh.  And I was going to write about my recent trip to Sevilla, but over the past few weeks I've started to become bothered by some creeping negative feelings that I couldn't quite describe.   And it wasn't until a few days ago when I read a blog post about another girl doing the same program as me: "How I'm Battling Homesickness", that I realized the feelings I've been experiencing recently are actually the result of homesickness.

You heard me right.  And to those that know me well it may come as a shock, because I've never really been one to be homesick.  When I was little I always wanted to go to the longest sleep-away camps, stay forever at my family's summer cabin, or always sleep over my friends' houses.
A recent care package I received from some old students from home
I hadn't even realized my mood had changed until it was pointed out by my boyfriend.  "Why aren't you studying Spanish anymore?  Why don't you go out with your friends?  Why don't you seem happy?" he kept asking.  But I'd just brush it off by arguing that I was exhausted, I would feel better soon.  But I wasn't feelig better, and how could I be that tired when I'm only working twenty hours per week?  Yes, dealing with the language barrier and children are tiring, but there had to be something more.

And queue me stumbling upon that aforementioned blog post about homesickness and reading what she had to say: "Homesickness has nothing to do with whether or not you wanted to move to your new place or if you were forced. It’s a completely involuntary reaction" (source).  It hit me.  It wasn't about me missing anything specific about home, but about missing things that felt familiar.  I of course missed my family, friends, and cats; but I also missed feeling comfortable.  I missed feeling like I belonged.
My BF trying to help me keep my Halloween traditions abroad
I do love living in Spain, but living in another culture isn't always easy.  I missed being able to tune in and out of a conversation without being lost, I missed knowing how to get around my town without getting lost, and I missed feeling like I belonged.  I missed so many little things that I had taken for granted at home, things I didn't notice until they were gone like: living in a house instead of an apartment, not having to plan trips around available public transportation, marathons on TV, and comfort food.

I think there's nothing inherently wrong with feeling homesick.  It's perfectly normally when you make a big change or move away from where you have become familiar.  As far as I'm concerned it just means that you left a place that was worth you missing it.  My problem though was that over the past few weeks I had become so busy wallowing in my homesickness that I had stopped appreciating all the wonderful reasons that I had moved to Spain for in the first place.
A hiking field trip with my students definitely helped clear my head.
So instead of continuing my moping, I set out to find ways to deal with finding ways to deal with my bout of homesickness in a healthier way:

    Don't want to lose touch with this cutie ^
  1. Allow some Familiar Media-I had set out to only watch programs and movies in Spanish while I was living here, but then I just found myself missing the familiar voices of characters from my favorite shows and movies.  So I came up with a compromise of watching my favorites in English but the rest in Spanish to improve my understanding.  And to be quite honest I find that now that I feel like I have the choice, I generally choose to leave the TV in Spanish.
  2. Don't Hide Away from the World-There have been so many days recently where I'd rather hang out in the comfort of my apartment then explore the outside world.  I even postponed grocery shopping as long as humanly possible because I just didn't feel like moving.  When I finally got myself up and moving, and spending time with friends I started to remember that Madrid is starting to feel like home, but only if I let it.
  3. Find a Comfort Hobby-At home I always used to cook.  I love cooking, baking, trying different recipes, and food in general.  But when I moved here I was without an oven for the first time in my life and had trouble finding sufficient substitutes (hello where is the baking soda?), but thankfully my boyfriend and mom banded together to help me buy a small oven.  It is sadly seriously my favorite thing in my apartment and has made me feel so much more at home here in Madrid.  It's perfect for those cookie and cupcake cravings.
  4. Don't Lose Touch with Home-Wherever you are in the world, whether it's near or far from where you're comfortable don't lose touch.  Sometimes it's not easy (the six hour time difference is not very forgiving) but even a few moments on Skype or just chatting on WhatsApp makes a world of difference.  Even if just for a few minutes talk to my cat, yes I said cat, I feel infinitely better.
  5. Most Importantly: Don't Take Anything for Granted-Remember why you made this change in the first place.  Maybe you moved away for a great job or a new experience, but whatever the reason don't forget why you chose this step in your life.  You made the choice for a reason and don't take the opportunity for granted.  I may miss the comforts of home, but I am still incredibly grateful for this wonderful experience.
In the end, I have to realize that the good and bad are both parts of the experience of moving abroad.  Yes, I may have given up a lot and miss a lot of the familiar things from home, but as I near the three-month mark in Spain I realize I have also gained so much from living abroad.  I am more self-reliant, braver, and truly happier.  And not to mention that for the first time in the past two years of our relationship, my boyfriend and I are finally reunited.  Even on the worst days that is enough to remind me to be grateful for this experience in Madrid together.

Is anyone else out there feeling homesick too?  How are you dealing with it?

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