Creating a Home: How I’ve Coped with Constant Homesickness
I. A Home on Each Side of The Atlantic
A heartbreaking question I’ve always got asked,
“Which place did you like living in better? Lithuania or America?”
I never hesitated, not really. Because the best way I could test myself to find out the answer, was to ask myself which place I missed more when we were at the other one. Even though I got homesickness when I was in Lithuania or America, I tended to miss my home in America a lot more. It didn't’ mean i didn’t love Lithuania, although some people tended to assume that. There are various reasons why it was never place I chose to put permanent roots in, but that’s for another essay.
Having two places to call home on different sides of the earth was an adventure as well as a struggle. Living in another place, that was home, but simultaneously longing for another place that felt like home as well, was the weirdest feeling of nostalgia and homesickness I’ve ever experienced.
home·sick·ness noun :
–a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.
Homesickness is especially hard for me because of one factor. No matter what situation in life, whether I’m going away for 5 days or 5 years, I have an irrational fear that everyone I’m close to will forget about me while I’m gone. I am always afraid I will become irrelevant to everyone because well, it’s just seems easy. Time can change so much, after all. And somehow my mind convinces me it’ll happen. Because after living 3,000 miles away from my best friends for 5 years, I knew, even as a child that things can change and life could be very different when I got back. And that’s ultimately what I dreaded. The unshakeable feeling of missing out on a whole life time, and becoming minuscule and meaningless. Homesickness, paired with that paranoia was something that left bruises on my young soul for many years.
II. Re-Defining a Home
One of the happiest memories of mine is in July of 2007. It was the summer we were going to go back to America, but before that, my friends would be coming to visit us in Lithuania for a couple weeks. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt in the airport. The suspense and the impatience. 5 years had gone by and waiting an hour in the terminal for them felt like another 10 years. I’ll never forget my reaction to seeing them. I’ll never forget their reaction to seeing me. Pure joy. Indescribable excitement. And most importantly; relief. One of the rawest moments of my life was when I saw my friend Emma and I held her so tight in my arms. My fears had been completely vanquished. I felt whole again. I felt like I could breathe. 5 years of anxiety and fear seemed to disappear in that one moment. I was standing on Lithuanian ground, but seeing my American friends in the flesh at the same time.
My two homes had collided swiftly and beautifully, and I had never felt more complete.
This moment also made me realize, that a home is what you make of it. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a place or a city or a country. It can be something entirely on its own; a person, or a moment stopped in time and space. Because that’s the scary thing about tangible things; they can be so unpredictable, and I’ve learned that better than anyone. Physical homes are subjected to change. Cities can become the wrong cities, and houses can become too expensive, and places can shift because of surrounding environments. Ultimately, nothing is certain, especially when trying to keep a home your own.
That’s why after my experience, I liked finding home in different kinds of things. Like memories, either within pictures, writing, or in my mind. Small instances that mean the world to me, like a reunion with a friend, a first intimate kiss, or a vibrant glow of someone’s eyes. So as hard as it is, let’s try and spread ourselves as much as we can. I know quite well the crippling feeling of homesickness, but I realize now that the main thing I was missing as a child all those years, was the moments I was missing with my friends.
This way I can take home wherever I go, and keep a constant feeling of belonging even when I move from place to place. Because ultimately we need something to help us adapt to every new situation life throws at us, and every different place our body is forced to transfer too. We are emotional beings, as well as physical, so we must train ourselves to love all places and make all places special in some way.
III. Coping & Creating
The best way i’ve coped with after so many years is by first realizing that a home is an abstract concept. It isn’t a tangible thing, even though we are told it is defined by a house or a place or a town. And these places do hold a lot of meaning to us, and that’s why we become connected to it, and that’s why we are away, we fall ill. But what I’ve learned, is that a home can be truly anything. When I look back at my home in my Lithuania, I remember the things that made it a home in my heart. The same with Cleveland. And I plan to do the same with my future homes.
When you realize that you can define your home in any way you want, you realize that even if you move from one physical place to another, you always have the power to make any place on earth your home.
I believe that a home goes beyond specific areas or zip codes. home can be a memory, or a certain feeling that comes over you when you’re standing in a certain spot. Home can be an item or piece of clothing that has been with you for years and years. Home can be the things you create, the things you bring into the world and call your own. Home can be a person, or a group of people. That’s all a home is–something that keeps you grounded and firm, a constant reminder that you belong in this world.