"On Homesickness"

I came across this in the Paris Review's blog: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/11/02/on-homesickness/

It's another great meditation on being in a different place. I found so much of this discussion thought-provoking, both in the context of where I currently find myself and in the context of where I'm supposed to locate a sense of "home". I feel like "home" has been a fraught concept for me since I started college. 

I agree with the author of the piece that ideas of homesickness and "I can't cut it" feel, somehow, extremely un-American. I've been struggling ever since coming to Russia with feeling guilty every time I feel overwhelmed by homesickness. I think, "I have this great opportunity, I'm not supposed to feel sad when I've been gifted with something this desirable!" Or I think, "I wanted to come here, it was my decision, I'm not allowed to be unhappy after getting something that I wanted!" I wonder if my ancestors, arriving at the shores of a land of opportunity, felt guilty for missing their home countries, or worried that they weren't sufficiently grateful to have been lucky enough to come to America. I wonder if my ancestors felt like they weren't allowed to be unhappy after getting the chance to immigrate. All of my ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so I can't ask them. 

I also appreciated that this piece touched on the transient nature of modern youth. Finding work that will help build your career so often means moving, sometimes with little notice and often to a place you've never lived before. Like pioneers traveling west, twentysomethings leave behind their roots to seek opportunity in a new land; as the article says, "immigrants in sweat pants with big boxes of books". Gratefulness for opportunity leaves no room for homesickness, the skeleton in your closet that suggests maybe you don't want your opportunity enough. 

But as the piece notes, after enough moves, home isn't really home anymore. New York as the aspirational city of a nation of young people dreaming of its exceptionalism is an idea that continues to fascinate me, because I will never know what it's like to feel that way about New York. I grew up in New York City: I was born in Manhattan, moved to Queens when I was eight, attended public school, including Bronx Science, one of the city's prestigious Specialized High Schools. When I think about my youth, and where I grew up, I think about New York: it is my hometown. But when I think about home, I don't think about New York. My parents, who had come to New York in their twenties for the opportunities the city afforded, left New York right when I went off to college--in fact, they moved to the same city I did (and, for the record, they planned their move before I planned mine, so I followed them, not the other way around). My home in New York was gone as soon as I left it, and there was never any way that I could go back. I made a new home where I was, in my university community, in Chicago. When I feel homesick, it's for Chicago, never for New York. I tell people that I'm from Chicago, even though I grew up in a city most people would kill to live in. New York just isn't my home anymore.