It starts around the second month in a new city, after the initial high, and fades around the year mark, when you settle in.
That’s what everyone says about homesickness and moving to a new city. It’s a tidy timeline to keep in mind to keep me sane, but there are other revelations granted by my current bout of homesickness that I think has changed me forever.
(Note: I didn’t have to move to LA and I see it as a long-term sabbatical, so my experience may be different. Maybe I’d embrace it more easily if I knew I was staying. Certainly I’d settle in faster if I’d moved with a partner or family instead of alone. But I digress.)
Bay Area is home
My parents moved me from China to Ohio when I was too young to remember. Then to San Diego before I had a solid concept of home, only enough to miss my friends. Finally, I moved myself from to Berkeley, eager to escape suburban sprawl and conservatives. Even though I’d never visited the Bay Area, I knew it was for me. For the first time, I felt at home.
It’s easy to chalk up my childhood fascination with that region to the list of famous people from the area or the beautiful landscape, but I believe certain cities are better for a certain people, period. Just like kindred spirits you understand with the glance of an eye. The intellectual vigor, the cool clean climate, the modest awkwardness, the social/environmental awareness. All qualities about the Bay Area that, stereotype or not, make me feel like I am whole and I belong.
Home is ownership
It’s multi-layered relationships and community that built over the dozen years I’ve been there, and also a feeling of pride and desire to enrich the place. I wish I felt more compelled to do so in LA, but it’s hard to care when you don’t know any of the landscape, the businesses. I don’t know what’s changed either, because I never knew what it was like prior. Leaving the house always causes me a smidge of stress (traffic doesn’t help) and I feel like I’d adrift, slightly lost geographically and in my identity. A self-consciousness I’ve never felt in the Bay Area, where I was sure of myself and who I was.
Part of the reason I left was to experience this discomfort. It helps me see a new point of view, but yeah it’s not fun. You know those people who are loyal to their city’s sport team until death, or reppin’ their zip code? I always thought they were closed-minded townies who needed to get with the times–globalization, baby. But I get it now. Their city is a source of comfort, a balm for anxieties represented by the unknown.
Having a home makes me better at leaving it
It’s a bubble like every city is a bubble. But it’s the particular bubble I choose to nurture and live in. I’m so grateful for my opportunities in LA as a long-term tourist, but none of it would be as exciting if I didn’t know I was eventually going home to the brisk fog, the Oakland hot topics (contentious as they are), and familiar faces at my favorite beer garden, yoga studio, the lake, etc…As someone who never really liked to travel because of poor planning skills and a love for routine, I’ve now realized that the best way to appreciate and love my home is to travel more and do it with my parents while they’re still young.
Learning to make myself at home
I’ve always been hard on myself. Easily disappointed in myself for not achieving enough, for my weight/looks, for my lack of a relationship, etc…But being homesick in a new city without anyone to comfort me, I’ve learned to sooth myself, take it easy on myself, treat myself like a precious object. And that has been the biggest reward for this move so far.
I listen to my needs and wants with an attuned ear. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but I let myself feel it too, because changing my relationship with food won’t happen overnight. I take myself to parks and bakeries and man I bought a ton of clothes. Truth be told I spend and eat a lot more. I plan events with my friends and let them know I miss them and need them. I smile at strangers and chat if I want to, but don’t feel obligated. I’ve stopped dating altogether and it’s the best thing I’ve done to get in touch with the “real” me. I let myself stay in as much as I want.
I indulge day in and day out. In things like writing/yoga/community college classes, cooking shows like Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Key takeaway for this post! Watch this revolutionary show. Even though it makes me more homesick for Berkeley), making mugs of hot drinks I don’t finish, buying presents for strangers, fancy face masks, massages, reading for 3 hours, sleeping 9 hours a night, new prescription glasses, the list goes on. I’m gifting myself all the little things I used to put off, waiting for the day I “deserved” it. Granted, I don’t want much in the way of things that cost money. But just practicing letting myself have anything in theory has brought me abundance.
So that’s what I’m thinking about today. Homesickness. It’s not fun, but it’s worth it.