Hiraith- a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the grief for the lost places of your past.
Moving to a new country, or even a country that’s not so new but that you’ve been away from for a long time can, at first, seem to be whimsical, romantic, adventurous- a fun thing to do…..until it sucks.
From my experience, and I have had some, you are likely to begin by developing a love/hate relationship with your country or city of new abode. Most likely jet lagged excitement will come first, followed by the endless possibilities of what you could do and see and be, and all the exciting people that you could meet; but as days go by and reality sets in, these endless possibilities can begin to look like a road with no end that requires work, risks, blood, sweat and tears and suddenly there’s hate, despair, rending of garments and plucking of beards (metaphorically, hopefully.)
It can be a little shocking to realise that whilst, geographically, you are where you hoped and dreamed to be for so long, you are nevertheless experiencing feelings varying from discontent to deep unhappiness; the painful realisation that no matter how good a dream is, reality is where we live.
I’ve realised that moves look and feel completely different at different stages of your life. Don’t expect a move to be the same at 28 as it was when you were 16. As you get older, you will be surprised at how much you miss friends and family and, if you haven’t moved for school, you may not have the busyness and structure of classes and studies or new people to meet who are in exactly the same boat as you or endless social events to opt out of.
You will realise a lot of things about yourself. You will realise that you are more resilient than you ever thought possible; that physical or emotional discomfort is not death. You will rediscover yourself in the eyes of new people you meet, you will become more than you ever were before. You will explore the gaps in your knowledge and realise that you know even less than you thought you did before. You will still look bemusedly and with a good measure of combined pity and disbelief at people who never moved from the same street and the same house or the country of their birth, your travels will make you glad you never stayed put, but you may find yourself ready to finally put down roots that have time to sink deep. So deep that they pull up the pavement beside them.
For those of you who miss a country when you’re out of it and then suddenly find it’s not as comfy as an old shoe when you finally get back to it, realise that when you are missing “home” you are not necessarily always missing a geographical place; you are missing a specific combination of a familiar time, place and people, a moment where everything clicked. Your nostalgia is less for where, than for when- a time in which you everything felt like it fit perfectly.
You will rediscover yourself in the eyes of new people you meet, you will become more than you ever were before. You will explore the gaps in your knowledge and realise that you know even less than you thought you did.
Often, sadly, you may never know that you’re in deep like or love with a place until you move to the next country and are looking back retrospectively, but you will know you’re in a happy place when you can look around you and have a hard time fully imagining yourself being anywhere else. For many people, it will be finding themselves in another moment when they feel the tugs of their new community and find themselves content and happy to answer them. You’ll find yourself, in that moment, fully believing that you could not be any more than the hundred percent happy you are feeling right there and then. You’ll feel like you belong, and you won’t be able to remember when or how you ever belonged elsewhere. This moment, this now, this home, will have become your new reality.
I’ve learned to be okay with the realisation that even the best things take adjustment and that adjustment leads you, eventually, to that place of familiarity, community we all search for when we seek a new home.
But in the meantime, what do you do when the resettling all gets a little too much and you can’t stop dreaming about packing up and moving back to the place you left? How do you conquer the blues when you realise belatedly that home no longer really exists?
- EAT– Visit new restaurants, try every new food you come across, invite any and everyone who looks interesting out for a meal. Ever since humanity crawled out of caves and sat around the first campfire, we have used shared meals to bond. Your new home won’t feel like home until you’ve broken bread with someone in it.
- DRINK– For the days when you are so fed up with the job search/unpacking/resettling that you need to get out but you have no friends yet to get out with, drink coffee, tea and lots of it. Hit up every café you can find with a good book and binoculars for people watching. Soak up your new atmosphere. Not only will you have a new-found appreciation for hot beverages, but you will also find comfort in the familiarity of routine.
- RUN– Put on your running shoes and jog it out. Endorphins, fresh air, health benefits- these are all obvious reasons but mainly, I’ve found that one of the best ways to map your new home is to put your feet to it.
- PRAY– Whether you believe in a higher being or the power of the still, silent voice inside, take some time to pray. Find a church, or meditate, read a good book, talk to yourself, be your own best friend and inner mentor. Embrace the moments of solitude and use it to center yourself in the pieces of home you will always carry inside you.
…and one day, you’ll wake up and realise that you’re home again.
If you want a place in the sun, you’ve got to put up with a few blisters.
– Abigail Van Buren