I don’t think I’ve written about it much (ever?) here, but when I first moved to North Carolina, I was miserable. Actually, just to make you feel better about yourself if you’re currently suffering from a severe case of homesickness, let me be clear: every day when I came home from work, I would cry through dinner. For a month. The only thing I wanted to discuss on our evening walks was our plan for moving back to Connecticut — how, and how quickly it could happen. I hated NC and the town we lived in, I missed my family and my friends horribly, I found starting a new job ridiculously stressful, I couldn’t stand the July heat… the list goes on.
A lovely reader emailed me last fall to ask if I could write a post about how I got over my homesickness. I feel badly that it’s taken me so long to do so, but the truth is that even now, after almost five years, the memory is still a bit raw. Thankfully, it has much, much softer edges, and I hope this post might be an encouragement to any of you who are going through something similar. My best tips for curing homesickness, accompanied by pictures of our cats, because everything is better with cats:
1. Have a support system. I almost feel bad for writing this one, because if I hadn’t had John by my side, I don’t think any of these other tips would have done the trick. But, it needs to be said. Keeping in mind that it was MY job opportunity we had uprooted and moved for, it’s nearly unbelievable to me how kindly and stoic-ly he tolerated my complaining and wailing, commiserating without joining in on my NC-bashing fests. He fed me dinner every night (even if I cried through it), and never once made me feel guilty about my opportunity even though he was dealing with his own homesickness. He was, and is, my hero. Maybe it’s not your boyfriend — it could be your Mom or Dad or your best friend. But please, find a patient soul who will love you and listen to you, for as long as it takes.
2. Get your internet hooked up ASAP. A practical tip! Make arrangements for your internet to be hooked up the day you move in, if possible. Though in reality it was a week at most, it seemingly took eons for our internet connection to get hooked up after we moved in. In those extremely fragile first few days, it was almost more than my stressed-to-the-limit heart could take to have to go to the library to use the internet (we didn’t have smart phones back then). Why did I need to use the internet? Aside from simple things like looking up how to get places, the internet was the easiest way to connect with faraway loved ones. My family started a private blog the week before our move, and chronicling our first days and weeks in a new place was a great way for me to vent. It also was more efficient than calling four family members every night to give four separate rundowns on my sorry state. When you’re spending a lot of time crying, you need to be efficient in other areas of your life :)
3. Find a church. It took us a few weeks, but finding a church we loved was the first tiny step toward feeling like we belonged in NC. We still attend the first church we tried, so our search was easier than most, but even though we didn’t know anyone at church, feeling like we had somewhere to go every week, somewhere down here that we identified with and felt a part of, was a huge turning point for us.
4. Concentrate on the good parts. Easier said than done, my friends. And it took me a long time to take my own advice. I was so busy hating our new town for everything it wasn’t (charming, historic, familiar, near the water, moderately temperatured) that I had no time to appreciate it for what it was (new, filled with stores I used to have to drive an hour to, close to the airport, surrounded by amazing city centers). It’s not that I’ve lost my love for New England, just that, over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the GOOD things about where we live.
5. Get out there. Of course, until I started experiencing those good things, it was hard to appreciate them. Despite our depressed state, we made everyday adventures a priority, discovering more and more things to love about NC along the way. Use the tips in this post if you need help — getting out of your house/apartment and doing something fun instead of moping/sulking is key.
6. Get a pet. I’m serious. Until we got our cats, going back to NC after a visit to our families was nothing but misery — but once we had two little fur friends waiting for us, “home” started to feel a little more like home.
To return to the title of this post, in my experience, the only real “cure” for homesickness is time. Hopefully, the rest of these suggestions will make the wait a bit easier. One other thought that might help? Homesickness only exists because the people and places you’re leaving behind are so well-loved. Reminding myself of this didn’t always work, but it’s worth a try :)
I would love to hear: Have you ever up and moved somewhere completely new? Have you ever experienced intense homesickness? If so, what helped you cure it?
P.S. I don’t have anything about friends on here because making friends was an entirely separate issue for us than curing homesickness. If you can believe it, it took us even longer :) Perpetually jealous of those, like my younger sister, who make friends at the drop of a hat!