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I recently went on a trip with my family across the world from Austin Texas to Greece, which equates to about 6,410 miles. As much as it would be nice to go to Greece on Holiday (haha) we actually went to visit our son serving in the United States military, it was an adventure filled with heartfelt emotions and experiences we will never forget. For me (as a mother) who’s first born flew the nest at 18 to join the military, this trip consisted of a unique blend of excitement, gratitude for the beauty of God's creation, and contemplation about homesickness – a feeling that has manifested itself at various stages of my life.
The moment we arrived in Greece, my senses were instantly awakened to the rich tapestry of this foreign land. The air bore traces of cigarettes, charbroiled meats, and sweet pastries, creating quite the aromatic experience. The soil, embracing the ancient mountainsides, displayed a mesmerizing array of colors, each hue narrating tales of centuries past. The architecture, shaped by Greece's profound historical heritage, graced every street corner with timeless beauty. At the same time the newer part of the ancient city reminded me a lot of San Francisco California, the insane traffic, the graffiti sprayed across any and all concrete walls, the hustle and bustle, street vendors and homelessness.
As I meandered along the cobblestone streets of Greece, I couldn't help but be entranced by the charming shops, inviting cafes, and hidden restaurants nestled in verdant alleyways adorned with exotic tropical plants. It was a moment of deep appreciation for the artistry of God's creation and His boundless creativity in crafting this diverse world. Yet, beneath this joy, a sense of longing lingered – I couldn't escape the realization that my son, stationed on this captivating island, was yearning for the comforts of home. This stirred memories of my own encounters with homesickness. I felt homesick with him at that moment. This sickness is a complex emotion that arises when we are physically separated from the place we consider home. It encompasses a yearning for the people, routines, and comforts associated with home. Psychologists argue that when we leave home, we disrupt our established social connections and support systems, leading to feelings of isolation and distress. They say that the unfamiliarity of new environments can trigger anxiety and stress, intensifying the feelings and thoughts that come with it.
Walt Disney once said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” This quote reminds us that even in the midst of homesickness, finding joy in the present moment and nurturing our dreams can be a source of comfort and resilience to keep going. Focus on the mission and then remember who you are, who loves you and where you are headed. Homesickness has been around since the beginning of time, a recurring theme in literature and poetry, reflecting the universal human experience of longing for home. Hundreds if not thousands of musicians have written about it. For example great songs like: Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals, Welcome Home, Son by Radical Face or Photograph by Ed Sheeran and one of my favorites: HOME, by Phillip Phillips Home .
My earliest brush with homesickness occurred at the tender age of nine. After a family gathering celebrating my father's birthday, I formed an instant connection with a cousin who had traveled from afar. The allure of spending a weekend with my newfound friend led me to fervently plead with my parents for permission to go stay with her family for the remainder of the week. However, the initial excitement waned rapidly as bedtime approached, giving way to a paralyzing sense of anxiety and sadness in an unfamiliar place. Because of my parents work schedules I was told I had to stay until the time they had planned to come get me. It was such a difficult time for me that I still remember intricate details about that experience 32 years later.
During my formative years, my parents frequently whisked us away to Mexico to visit relatives. While I always looked forward to these trips, an undeniable pattern emerged – the longer we stayed, the more acute my homesickness became. The initial allure of Mexico would gradually morph into a yearning for our Californian home. Conversely, once we returned home, the memory of Mexico would provoke intense longing, often leading to tearful conversations with my mother about me wanting to go back to Mexico.
On one of the final days of our journey in Greece, my son graciously took the wheel to show us the island's breathtaking vistas. The narrow mountain roads, with their dizzying corkscrew turns, offered mesmerizing glimpses of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and the lush landscapes of the island. Overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the moment and filled with gratitude for being reunited with my son, tears welled up in my eyes. It was during this profound moment that I came to understand the complexity of homesickness. I wondered if I could remember this moment just as it was forever. Me and my 3 favorite guys on a beautiful mountain, just as it was in that very moment.
Homesickness, I realized, is a universal sentiment that transcends borders and cultures. It's not merely a longing for a physical place but also an ache for the emotional and social connections associated with that place. While our surroundings may change, the yearning for familiarity, comfort, and the warmth of home remains constant. Homesickness serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact our homes and loved ones have on our lives. As I wrestled with these emotions and questions it became clearer to me that the feeling of homesickness can happen anywhere and it's not so much about the place, rather the LOVE that exists in that place. I remember when I first left home, I had just graduated high school and was eager to create the life I wanted. It was hard. Realizing the responsibilities of rent, utilities and food was an enormous weight. This experience reminds me of the story in the bible in (Luke 15:11-32) where the prodigal son left his fathers house and experienced a deep yearning to return home. This parable illustrates the spiritual and emotional struggle of longing for one's true home.
I remember when I was between the ages of 18 and 20 feeling that the longing I felt was permanent and I believed that those feelings were going to be the way I felt forever. I'm so grateful that as dark as times got for me; I pressed forward. Looking back now; especially in moments like I had on that mountain. I can see the truthful promise from our creator that joy will come again in the morning.
While searching for answers to this invisible sickness for home I came across this gorgeous writing by Alysha Waghorn, titled, “It Gets Better.” “It might not feel like it right now but I promise you-it does get better. I can’t tell you when it will happen but it will, little by little, day by day. You’re going to wake up one morning and realize that your sleep was not plagued by ghosts. You’re going to catch yourself laughing at the most mundane moment. You’re going to meet people that make your world a brighter place. You’re going to be inspired by the little things, the bigger things and all that lies between. You’re going to explore your most favorite places and fall in love with new ones. You’re going to go swimming at dusk and laugh with your friends and smile at strangers. You’re going to find yourself again. You’re going to look back one day and realize that amidst the hurt and the heartache and the pain, you were healing; you were growing. One day You’re going to wake up and sit within your stillness and you’re going to be at peace.”
My journey from Austin to Greece was a kaleidoscope of emotions that I am still sorting out right now as I write – from the awe-inspiring beauty of Greece to the nauseating reminder of homesickness. It taught me that homesickness is a powerful emotion that can strike anyone, anywhere. It serves as a testament to the enduring value of the places and people we hold dear. In the end, it's the love and connections we have at home that make every journey, no matter how far or exotic, truly worthwhile.
I promise, it gets better