Unexpected Homesickness

31 Mar

Before leaving for America a week and a half ago, I thought I was doing pretty well here in Australia. I considered our flat my home and having had almost total control over decorating and furnishing it helped make it feel like my own. I felt like I was finally starting to feel comfortable in Melbourne, learning my way around and getting involved in different activities. I had sort of come to terms with being ignored by people “back home”. In fact, I really didn’t even want to go back to America at all, but I had to because of pressing issues at home. So I reluctantly went and H followed me two days later on a cheaper flight.

It was a very hectic week and a half, but it was nice to be back on my own turf. I was able to see some of my friends again, too.

One thing I had to do while there was move a bunch of my stuff out of storage and into the house. I also had to sort through a lot of it and decide what I wanted to take back with me. There are a lot of things I have been missing that there was no way I could take back with me, like a lot of my music equipment. Then there were things that have a lot of sentimental value that aren’t practical to take back when I have things to pack that I actually need. I’m an extremely sentimental and nostalgic person and it pained me to have to leave behind a lot of those things. I know I don’t have room for them here and I don’t need them and all that, but I hate thinking that I have just left them behind in America and I might eventually even have to get rid of them someday.

There’s my little pink bear with a bell inside that I’ve had since I was a year old.. well, okay, she’s sort of more gray than pink now, and a stuffed tiger whose tail I chewed off a long time ago and whose nose is twisted sideways. There’s a beautiful knitted blanket that my great-great aunt made for me when I was born. There are my American Girl dolls that I started collecting because I desperately wanted one as a child and no one would buy me one, so now I’m compensating for that as an adult… except you can’t get American Girl dolls in Australia. There are the family photo albums that I rescued from my parents’ damp, cold garage. And my ice skates that I’ve had since I was 14 that I bought with my own money and still fit me. And my wool coat that my grandma bought me when I was 19 and she found out I didn’t have a coat at all for the winter. And so many other things.

At this point, I have no plans to go back to America for at least another year and a half, maybe longer. By then we might even have a baby and travel would be impractical. So who knows?

Until we moved into our flat, H had been living in the same house where he grew up. He has never had to get rid of anything from his past or downsize his life in any way. He doesn’t really understand what that is like. He’s also not as sentimental as I am and doesn’t have attachments to things and what they represent. He can’t quite figure out what I’m so upset about.

It’s not that I necessarily want us to live in America because I do actually like it here in Australia better, but it feels very final and I feel like I have left a huge part of my life behind, never to be reclaimed again. Not that it’s ever happened to me, but I imagine this is sort of how people who lose all their possessions in a house fire must feel. In some ways, I feel kind of stupid to be this upset over things and obviously if I have to choose between my things and H, the choice is obvious.

But they are my things and they represent my life. It’s hard to let them go, especially when I’ve had to say good-bye to so many other things.

I had a chat with my colleague and friend while back home about what to do about my business and there is really no other option but for me to give it up within the year. I can’t manage it from here and trying to is only hindering the people who are actually doing the real work. I poured my heart and soul into that business- it was always my dream to own my own business- along with a lot of time and money. It was a hard decision to agree to start extricating myself from it and I feel a huge sense of loss.

Between losing my business and leaving all my things behind, I feel extremely ungrounded and lost, like everything that happened in my life before coming to Australia doesn’t matter anymore. I know my life was nothing spectacular before, but it was mine and I don’t like the idea of erasing my whole past and starting from scratch.

I’m sure in a few months, I’ll be fine again and forget all about this nonsense. At least, I hope I will. I was totally unprepared for feeling this upset and depressed. It’s never happened to me before, but I guess before, I always knew when I’d be going home and there was never a feeling of finality to any of my previous travels.

13 Responses to “Unexpected Homesickness”

  1. thetravelingtimes March 31, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    So sorry to hear this! I have two things that I hope will help:
    -Even though you know you made the right decision, you’re probably going through a grieving process of losing what you thought your life was going to be like. You had plans, set up a life a certain way, and poof! Love changed your life, and a new direction arose. It will take a while to get over what you have lost (exchanged) for your new path.
    And, I wouldn’t think of it as “erasing” your past. You are the person you are today because of what you’ve already accomplished.

    -Be so grateful that you are living in a country where you speak the language! Imagine how much more difficult and awkward life could be! You are so lucky! 🙂

    Change just takes time to adjust to. I hope you’re feeling better!

    • housewifedownunder April 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      That is true. I moved once for love to a country where I didn’t speak the language and it was much harder. This time around is definitely easier in some respects, but because it is more “final”, I’m having a really hard time with it. It’s hard for me to talk about it with G because I don’t want him to feel like I would rather have my old life back than be with him.

  2. megalagom March 31, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    I can completely understand this and relate. I am also very sentimental and have a few special stuffed animals and shoe boxes of “things” that represent friendships and life events over the years. Thankfully I can keep them at my fathers house until I know what to do with them but I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them. I will always try my best to make sure my trunk of memories stays with family or my best friend- maybe I’ll move an item to Sweden every so often or maybe it will be sometime to visit sometimes. I guess its different when you don’t plan on going back and forth once or twice a year like I do. Either way, what your feeling is normal- cutting ties to what you once had is hard. But you are strong and you will be able to make new memories and maybe even a new business. I think we all sacrifice for love- sometimes some walk away from more than others, but it just means that you had more to walk towards.

    • housewifedownunder April 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      That’s a really nice way of looking at it, Meg. In my head, I know it is worth it and the things I left behind are just things. We’re now at a point where we can’t really travel for a while, so when I came back this time, I knew it would be a long time before I could go back and retrieve anything else.

  3. trailingexpatspouse April 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I know what you mean – since moving overseas, I too have been grieving my other life. It would be easy to say, let’s go home and get that life back, but you can’t. What has helped me is to realize that until I feel the loss, I can’t build something new. When we go back to Australia, our life will be different, our new home town will have changed, and relationships (though still wonderful) will differ too. But that’s OK. I will bring home a whole new set of experiences and ways of looking at the world. Hang in there and let yourself go through the grief. But don’t forget to move on and allow yourself to love the change for itself.

    • housewifedownunder April 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      i certainly don’t envy you your eventual repatriation. That can often be as hard as moving abroad. I suppose you are right that in order to move forward, you have to go through that transitional phase of working your way through what you’ve lost.

  4. Kristin April 4, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    I am sorry you have to go through this! But it may be a comforting thought that probably every single expat has experienced similar emotional ups and downs.
    Yes, we do get attached to things. Not because they are valuable or miraculously pretty, but because they represent a time in our life that we would like to re-visit every now and then. I also have a lot of stuff stored at my parents’ house and whenever I visit (which I try to do once a year), I like to look at those things and the memories they evoke.
    Living the expat life for your partner isn’t always easy, as we have to give up so much and start all over again every time, while our partner already gets a new routine straight away. It certainly requires a lot of strength, and it is ok to feel nostalgic every now and then, after all, not everything back then was bad – just as not everything now is pure sunshine. It is always hard to admit that to our significant other, since they might feel like you already mentioned – as if you’d rather choose your old life over your new life with him.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself! Allow yourself to experience those feelings, but don’t forget to look for that ray of (in your case: Australian) sunshine!
    Sunny regards from Mexico,
    Kristin
    Love your blog, btw! 🙂

  5. astimegoesbuy April 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    When I first moved from the US to Australia, it was a great adventure! Everything was new and fun and exciting. Then at about 2 years, it stopped being like a long vacation and it became real! I had to go buy new underwear and I didn’t even know what size to get! How does a perfectly competent woman get to 40 and not know what size underwear to buy?! She moves from one country to another! At that point I really started missing the US because I knew how to look after myself there but in Australia I had to have the sales lady help me buy undies!! No I’m not traumatised!!
    But eventually, Australia started feeling like home. I realised that being an American is part of my culture and heritage. It makes me who I am and I will never loose that. By the time year 3 rolled around I was ready to apply for citizenship. Although thanks to a lovely woman who had relocated from Ireland to the US and now to Australia, I have stayed a dually because I may never live in the US again but I am not going to give up my history.
    You’ll find your way. It just takes a bit of time to build a new life. 🙂
    Hang in there!
    Laura

    • housewifedownunder April 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      So far I’ve avoided doing much shopping for just that very reason: I don’t know what size I am! I don’t know if I will apply for citizenship or not when the time comes. I hope by then I will feel more settled here.

      • astimegoesbuy April 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

        I waited 9 years before applying. By that time Australia had become home and I was comfortable that I wouldn’t loose my Americaness, but be a blend of both. And if you never get to that point…who cares?! It’s not mandatory and there is nothing wrong with being a child of the world. Some days will be really tough but I promise it does get better and easier! I now can shop in so many countries…can’t be a bad thing!

      • housewifedownunder April 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

        I actually dislike a lot of things about America and don’t want to be associated with those things, so not being associated with America doesn’t bother me so much. In many ways, I feel like there is nowhere that I truly belong. But all my friends and family are in America and I do miss them a lot. They are hard to replace!

      • astimegoesbuy April 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

        Yeap, and you aren’t going to replace them…you are going to add to their numbers! They will always be your friends and family. I have friends I barely see except when I make the trip back every 18 to 24 months but we are still great friends and have fun together. Then I have great friends here that share my life on this side of the pacific who will be life-long friends as well. I have adopted other peoples parents as my mine and given a couple friends honourary sistership!

      • housewifedownunder April 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

        True enough! Reminds me of that old Girl Scouts song: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”

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