Homesickness – Life On The Move

September 17, 2013 Kristance Harlow

I’m at the age now where everyone is having kids on purpose, at least three times a week someone I know on Facebook is getting engaged, and every weekend someone posts wedding pictures. Some people I know play bridesmaid in multiple weddings each summer, and my family and friends are all moving towards a life more settled. They call a location home and have been there long enough to have established themselves, their friendships are secure and many live in the same part of the country that they grew up in. My life on the move flies in the face of what so many of my peers consider normal.

A bi-coastal girl from birth, my dad hailed from Vermont while my mom a born and bred Oregonian. After the age of 13 I learned what it felt like to be homesick even when you were home. I’ve always had a problem with nostalgia, imagining the past better than it was. When we packed up and moved across the country to Vermont, I was always longing for my childhood home in the Oregon woods. Then when I went to visit family and friends in Oregon the following summer, I was missing my Vermont home. Choose a side, Kristance!

When I spent my first extended period abroad, I was 20 and in a cave without electricity in the Indian Himalayas. Did I mention I was extremely ill with something like e. coli the entire summer? It was a recipe for homesickness. I was too weak to go for long walks or spend any length of time up and about, so I used my free time to escape into books. The classroom at the nunnery had a bookshelf dedicated to English language books, and I was reading an entire novel every 48 hours. I was also filling an entire journal every couple of weeks.

June 20, 2007

“Everyday here goes by, just like the last and once I’m in it I know everything will be fine, the people will be kind and I will make a new connection with someone, a nun will say something to make me smile and feel loved. Alyson and I will laugh about something ridiculous and one of us will get annoyed or mad about something but we’ll never say it and we’ll let it go because we need each other in this foreign land. Every day I will be torn between two lives. The life I lead here and the life waiting for me at home. I don’t know how to connect them. I don’t know how to live in either without missing the other.”

A ridiculously colorful drawing I doodled in my India journal.
Yes, I was 20 years old, not 8.

I was writing about the present situation, but also my past, and foreshadowing the future. Since then my life has been punctuated by major changes and moves around the world. Each new chapter has added a layer to my longing for home. I am an introvert by nature, and can be shy when first introduced to a new group, while I still need time to adjust to new people I no longer need time to get comfortable in a new room, to a new bed, to a new physical location.

I can sleep literally anywhere. My cousin visited me in England and when we were trekking around London I was so tired that I told him to go ahead for a bit and I’d take a break on a bench on the South Bank. I fell asleep in broad daylight, in the middle of London. When I’m on a plane I doze off, sometimes even before the safety demonstration. When I get in a car, my body knows it’s a chance to catch up on some sleep and I get immediately tired, even if I wasn’t the least bit sleepy before getting in the vehicle. That’s a learned trait, up until my early twenties I was such a light sleeper. If someone was watching TV in the same building as me, a leaky sink in the bathroom, a heavy snorer nearby…you name it and it would have probably woken me up. Now I can sleep through almost anything, as my near brush with death can attest to having slept through a fire alarm when my house was burning down. The only thing that keeps me up and prevents me from sleeping is stress and anxiety (can I get an ‘amen’ on that one?).

Home is where I can eat good food.

Another useful learned trait from a life on the move, is being able to eat anything. I went from being one of the pickiest eaters ever, to wanting to try everything. There are few things that I’ve tried that I don’t like: Jello (the texture makes me gag), canned tuna (the smell), and some processed sandwich meats. Besides that, if you say I should try something, I probably will and I will probably like it. Ok, so I have a gluten and lactose intolerance, and I have this annoying hiatal hernia which means I constantly have acid reflux and have to stay away from things like grapefruit and orange juice. Maybe I can’t eat everything but I sure as hell want to.

Carleton Peter Harlow
November 17 1952 – January 6 2012

Enough change will either drive you crazy or drive the crazy out of you. I think a little of both has happened to me. What other people used to think was my responsible nature (preplanning the future, major career goals, a 10 year step-by-step plan) was actually my crazy control-freak nature. I’m no longer so concerned about not having a plan for every single thing. Not knowing what will happen in the future doesn’t throw me in a tizzy. I don’t spend too much time dwelling on lost homes and long gone childhood summers. I have my days when I let the sorrow of missing my father wash over me and I reminisce about happy and painful memories, but I don’t swim in that pool on a regular basis anymore.

Maybe it’s what happens with time, accepting that the past is past and that your home is where you are in the moment. The realization that my life is happening as I live and breathe and no amount of longing will make the past the present. I have loved ones flung across the world, much of it is my own fault too because I went so many places and gave them all pieces of my heart. You don’t really know a place until you bury some memories there. My memories are buried in so many places that I no longer know which way is what other people call “home”. My home is the road, my home is the unknown, my home is wherever I rest my head.

Sometimes I have to escape into the nostalgic days gone past.


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  1. Rose on September 18, 2013 at 1:09 am

    I get homesick when gone from home more than 2 weeks. Yet after returning home from travels, I will find myself missing the travels.

  2. mplanck on September 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    What a beautiful memory lane you've described. Thank you for sharing your insights, your feelings, and nostalgia that makes certain memories come back to life. Great photos as well, pretty lady.

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