**DISCLAIMER: This blog post highlights exactly what it is like to be so far away from home and what is familiar. I am doing well, and I am slowly, but surely adjusting to everything. I just want to be very real about my experiences.
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what "home" is and really what it means to be "homesick". Let me give you some background information-
- I have been away from home for a long period of time (3.5 months at the most)
- I have experienced homesickness before
- I have helped others overcome homesickness
- I have overcome homesickness myself
- I have more than one place that I call home
Its really hard to say exactly what home is. I do not think that it is the physical house really that you live or lived in. For most of my life, I have lived in the Orlando area, but my dad was in real estate and had a thing for renovations (and was really good at it!!), and so we moved houses a lot. The longest that I lived in one house was for 6 years, so basically I have never felt an attachment to the physical house/building. However, I do call Winter Park home. Winter Park is where I grew up, where everything I know is, everything that is familiar. My favorite restaurants, some of my favorite people, my family, my favorite stores, where I went to school from kindergarten through college. In high school, I also felt that my youth group (BBYO) was home. There was no connection to an actual building because we did programs in multiple different places, but it was still a "home" for me. For 6 summers, Camp Barney Medintz was my home and continues to be a home for me. I never lived on campus during college, but Rollins College was a home for me. All of the "homes" that I have had throughout my life have a few things in common-
- A connection to people that I met in that certain place
- Memories made while at that place
- A certain feeling
Its funny really, because this is not the first time that I have really thought about this topic. At camp often my friends and I would talk about what makes camp such a special place? Is it the people, or is it the place itself? Of course this goes so much deeper than that and there really is not an answer and I think this is the same for anyone who has a place like that in their lives, no matter what it is.
So I have a complicated relationship with homesickness. My first encounter that I really remember was during my first summer working as a camp counselor. I was 18 and I had just graduated from high school, this was my first time away from home for such a long period of time. I did not experience really any homesickness of my own that summer, however I was faced with helping others conquer their homesickness for the first time. Homesickness manifests itself in many different ways, especially in kids and helping someone through this is no easy task. Nothing that you say can really make it better, you just have to be there for them, listen to them, and distract them from thinking about home. Throughout my next five summers, I dealt with this a lot from helping individual campers deal with their homesickness, to training other counselors on how to handle it with their campers. The best part of all of this is that typically, the campers that were the most homesick at the beginning of the month, were the ones who were the most sad to leave at the end of the month. I even got to see some of my most homesick campers, go on and become staff and help other campers through their homesickness (talk about full circle!!).
Earlier this year, I embarked on a three month journey. I went to Israel on a Birthright trip, and extended for a month, afterwards I went to Europe and stayed in Barcelona with a host family, while traveling on the weekends. Before the trip a lot of people asked me if I was nervous, but I honestly did not think too much about it because I had been away from home for more than 3 months before and I was totally fine. This trip was the first time that I really experienced being homesick, as a 22 year old. I remember thinking to myself at one point that I now know what my 11 and 12 year old campers feel like, as my mom was comforting me on the phone. I got through it and now I long for the day that I can spend more time in Barcelona.
I think homesickness is just a longing for familiarity, for what makes sense, for a connection to something, anything.
I have been in Tallinn for just under 2 months now, and its not home yet, but that's okay. I mean honestly of course it's not home yet. I have some really great days where I'm dancing around my apartment to the new(ish) Demi Lovato album (you should definitely check it out!!!), and then I have days where I wish my parents were in the same house as me, or that I was walking down "Chapel Road" at camp, or that I was goofing around with my siblings at the dinner table (probably with an absurd amount of take out Sushi)- you get the picture. It is a weird feeling, because you sometimes feel silly and childish, but it is SUCH a valid feeling. This experience is nothing that I could have ever prepared myself for. It is challenging, overwhelming, and great but all in completely different ways that I ever anticipated.
The hardest part about being homesick is that the only cure is time. As each week goes by, you'll realize that 1. you made it another week, you are still alive! 2. You felt a little less homesick this week, and before you know it weeks and weeks have gone by and you actually feel pretty comfortable with your situation. I'm excited for that, to go through this process and be so aware of my feelings, and of all of the possible outcomes.
Shoutout to our advanced technology for allowing me to easily stay in touch with everyone from home. It is so cool to be on the other side of the world, 7 hours ahead and still be able to so easily talk to my friends and family making it feel like I have a little piece of home with me in Tallinn. I promise that I am not crying myself to sleep every night!!! I think it is really important to share my real feelings and experiences throughout this year, especially since we live in a world where all we do is portray the version of ourselves that we want everyone else to see. It is okay to struggle and to actually feel your feelings. Everyday is not the best day, but each day is better than the last!! Even if no one reads this (besides my fan club), at the very least I have something to look back and read the next time I am missing home a little extra, to remind myself that it all works out.
If you made it this far THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT ME!!!! Sorry this was such a long post, but as always, I appreciate you keeping up with me and my adventures. My next post will most likely be about whatever shenanigans my friends and I get ourselves into while we are in Berlin next week!!
Just so this was not a completely photo-less blog post, here is a picture of how I decorated my room. It was super important to me that I brought things from home and to make my apartment feel as warm as possible!