I know I talk about homesickness a lot.
In grandiose and abstract ways.
But I don’t think I’d ever really felt it before.
I had managed to skirt Moana; being away from the niblings I’d had no excuse to go and no one to go with. I don’t know why, but I found the clip to How Far I’ll Go while I was tidying my room and I as I listened to the lyrics for the first time, I was overwhelmed. It’s truly the only way I can describe it.
In a tidal wave of feelings, I too wished I could be the perfect daughter; I laid down on the bed, and pressed the button to repeat the video. Without realising I must have been looking for some way to verbalise the mess in my heart, and then there was Moana, our headstrong heroine, searching for that somewhere she belonged. She was perfect.
When I first got back to Ashby, after those glorious 12 months in Melbourne I had this feeling. This gut wrenching longing. Like something was missing, or something was wrong, or just…something.
I missed Melbourne, I missed Australia.
There would be days when it felt almost unbearable, where I’d feel the tears start to well up at the sight of a kangaroo on a wine bottle, or a happy memory sneaking up on me.
But I don’t think it was a simple as being homesick.
Yes, I missed Australia, but at that point I didn’t know if I could ever go back, or at least I had no idea of when. I was grieving in a way.
Not quite as simple as holiday blues, but more than just struggling to settle back in. I thought I was homesick.
I think I’m only just starting to know what homesickness really feels like.
I’ve always been…away.
Allusive and hard to pin down, I’m that friend that always misses out on reunions because I’m simply not here.
I missed my end of school prom because Fiji looked more exciting to me than a drunken evening with people I’d probably never see again.
Even if I’m in the country, I’m useless: plans always seem to fall around other plans and I’m frantically trying to work out logistics so I can do it all.
I do get that pang when I’m not there, especially with my girls, but it’s closer to nostalgia than anything. Knowing that it would be fun, but there’ll be another time, a watered down fear of missing out.
But now that next time isn’t as close, now plans are being made years in advance and those precious moments together are over the Internet. Interactions are on Facebook and Instagram, quick Skypes and half finished whatsapp conversations at the wrong end of the day.
And it’s my own fault, of course. I chose to leave.
I was talking to Mama and Papa K the other morning and after we’d hung up, I got this horrible empty feeling. I’m not guilty I left, but guilt is the closest emotion I can pin down to describe all those times when I just wish they were here, and it’s my fault they’re not. And I guess each time I get that feeling, I push it away, because it’s easier to just get on with things than feel it.
Not guilt. It’s more like that feeling you get when you see photos from some get together you couldn’t get to, or when you hear stories from that hilarious night out you decided to skip because they’re all the same and besides you’re going somewhere early the next day and need your sleep.
Only each time the feelings get worse, and a little more intense.
Melbourne is home; it’s the only place I’ve been that seemed to fit. Here I was, flung in a country all by myself, in a city I barely knew and it had never felt more right, I can’t describe the optimism and contentment I felt the first time I got brunch, or walked along the Yarra. The first night market, noodle market, pop up food market.
But I’ve worked it out. Homesickness isn’t just missing a certain place, rather the feeling of home, the routine. The familiarity of walking through the door on a Thursday and being hit by the smell of bolognese. Of hugging someone who’s been in the pool and inhaling chlorine and for a moment thinking it might be your Mum. Or of stepping outside on a clear night and seeing Orion’s Belt shining brightly over the house: everywhere I go, as soon as I see the stars, I look for Orion’s Belt, it makes me feel closer to home.
It’s noticing those things aren’t there: that’s homesickness.
It’s looking for something you won’t find.
Waiting for someone and you’re not quite sure why, or remembering seeing something somewhere and realising that that somewhere isn’t here. It’s always feeling you’re only partly here, the abstract ‘other’.
I rang Zac shortly after talking to Mama and Papa K, and while I was excitedly debriefing him on what we’d talked about and he asked questions, I suddenly found myself crying…
“I just miss them Zac. I really fucking miss them right now.”