Welcome to the 4th run of the #TrailingSpouseStories. This love month is not only for expressing our love for our expat partners. There are other people and objects of our affection like our home countries. This month we trailing spouses talk about our homesickness, our longing for our home countries, which we do love in more ways than one.
In light of this month’s #TrailingSpouseStories theme, I’d like to share my personal theory on homesickness (or the lack thereof). And for all intents and purposes, the only basis this theory has — is me. 😉
We are all born into a “village”. Apart from our immediate family, it’s all the relatives, friends and help that we get to raise children into the best kinds of human beings we possibly can be. Hence the well-known African proverb:
When you’re born and/or raised into your “village”, the tendency is to accept everything that comes with it, without question. All the personalities, the weird and odd things, the relationships in all states and stages and the social skills, or lack thereof. It’s the whole package. It’s what you know, how you were raised, and what you believe to be right and true. And the village stays together and is very close-knit because everyone follows the same culture and belief system (How very M Night Shyamalan of me!). This therefore makes a member of the village loyal; and as an effect, builds attachment and interdependency amongst its members. Really, what’s wrong with that?
The problem comes when life happens and you have to leave the cozy confines of your village to create your own, start anew, and well… trail your spouse. And everything that is new and different takes some getting used to. Admittedly, it’s just harder.
That’s when the homesickness sets in. It hits hard especially if a person had the most positive experiences of their lives in this village. It’s very hard to let go of those.
But here’s what I realized, all thanks to my wise mentor and slightly balding Godfather (aka “Ninong”, but The Godfather kinda gives him a more regal ring to it, no? ;)). During one of our “life” discussions, he once told me I’d survive anywhere if only because I knew how to “create” my own village.
Like everyone, I too was born and raised in a village. But some thing, some circumstance or event(s) along the way of it all made me realize: The entire system I was raised into wasn’t all for me. And somewhere along the way, I learned to customize: I take those that I want, and leave out those I feel don’t fit. It could’ve been a coping mechanism on my part, but all I know is that it’s what works for me (and now for how I raise the girls).
It’s not that I’m unattached. On the contrary, I’m big on staying in touch and keeping strong ties. Many that know me and are close to me can vouch for that, no matter where in the world we are (literally). Thanks to social media and all our gizmos and gadgets, it’s been easier to keep tabs on everyone too.
And I think because of this “trait” of mine, my attachment becomes fluid. Instead of a whole village, I miss parts of it. I miss specific people. Though I miss their physical presence, I’m still genuinely happy to connect whenever we can, physically or virtually (I guess it helps that my Language of Love is “Words”).
When people ask me if I miss the Philippines, I can never give a straight answer. The Philippines will of course always be a home to come back to. And everything that happens to it, the good and the bad, I go through it too. But if I’m being honest, I’ve also had so many positive, life changing experiences outside of Manila, it’s become easy to leave without an urgent longing to come back. The birth of my two children in Chapel Hill can’t beat any other experience I’ve had anywhere else. And I think it’s also paved the open-mindedness towards living away from home. Maybe that’s why with this move to California, we quickly adjusted to our new life, as some have observed.
Also, it’s hard to be homesick when you see that Jamie is significantly better here. Not once since our move, has she had to take antihistamine for her allergy. Her topical creams and ointments? We apply once a week; and maybe twice when the weather shifts drastically.
Ironically enough, it all comes down to the little unit of two little girls and a husband that is my village. With all this moving and trailing and what have you, they have become my home. We’ve developed our own belief systems, social skills and little culture. It has parts of the villages my husband and I originally came from, but it’s essentially its own ecosystem.
And if you follow the logic, it’s this village that I’ve become attached to. We are interdependent of each other. So no matter where in the world I am, it is without them when I am most homesick.
Read more about other trailing spouses’ experiences with homesickness:
Elizabeth of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how homesickness wasn’t what she expected
Clara of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide tells how she has been homesick all her trailing spouse life
Tala Ocampo writes about the Life that Was in the Philippines and how she would still say yes to the trailing spouse life
Yuliya of Tiny Expats relives the sensory experience of being back home
Didi of D for Delicious talks about her love-hate relationship with her home country