Yesterday I was feeling especially homesick. It was a combination of things: listening to Dallas radio stations online, seeing blue lights at a metro station that reminded me of a movie theater in my hometown, talking with friends from several places I call home.
I told one friend: “I’m occasionally feeling homesick. I think I’ve been here too long and I need to travel somewhere.”
She wrote back: “It’s funny that your reaction to homesickness is ‘go somewhere else.’ You are a very interesting person.”
I hadn’t considered that my feelings were kind of weird, but as soon as she confused me, she gave me some answers. “Maybe you need to travel to regain your excitement for being away from home. And then when you do get back to Athens, it will feel like home by comparison. Maybe.”
She was totally right. But it got me thinking…so what happens when Athens DOES feel like home? It will be added to a growing list: Peoria, Jackson, Fatick, Dallas…and Athens. I have so many homes. Which is a great thing! But it also means that no matter where I am, there are always homes that I will be sick for. I will never feel 100% at peace and at home, because my heart is increasingly divided between countries and cities and people.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in recent years is that most human decisions are not “good or bad” or even “good or better.” So many decisions are simply between two equally good options. I feel like that is the case here.
I’ve chosen to embrace a life where I move every few years. The benefits are huge: I get to experience a wide range of lifestyles, learn new things, meet people, feel encouraged in unique ways, feel strengthened in unique ways, feel stretched in unique ways. But the losses are also huge: namely, perpetual homesickness. Even if I decided to move back to my hometown…I would be homesick for somewhere else.
“I will never be satisfied,” Angelica Schuyler sang, giving voice to my soul.
But that’s life. We never really will be satisfied, because we CAN’T have everything at once. And honestly, I’m tired of trying to convince myself to stop wanting, stop caring, stop reaching. I think it’s okay to be unsatisfied. It’s another way of reminding myself that I am human and that life is not the way it’s supposed to be.
I have this vision of eternity where we are somehow able to be everywhere and leave people and not feel like we are saying goodbye. Since that is not the reality now, we always have to choose between staying in one place, staying with one group of people, or moving on to see more of this world and these people that God has created.
Growing always results from, or creates, dissatisfaction.
Maybe “contented” is different from “satisfied.”
As I was walking to HD from the metro this morning, I listened to “Pumpin’ Blood” by NoNoNo. The jaunty, catchy chorus goes like this:
“Cuz it’s your heart:
It’s pumpin’ blood–
And the whole wide world is whistling.”
All these feelings: missing my homes, thinking about how I will never be satisfied, wondering if that is okay…it all faded away.
I’M ALIVE. I’m in Athens, I’m walking to a work that I love, the sun is shining, my heart is pumping blood. In the midst of confusion and pain and imperfection, the whole wide world is whistling.
There are downsides to moving to another country and starting a new life with new friends. Sometimes I need to focus on those things and be sad or mad or whatever. But then the morning comes, and my playlist reminds me of this truth: there is so much good in the world. In the midst of my homesickness, I can rejoice in how I’m forming a new home, one that will someday cause me homesickness, because IT MATTERS. We only miss things when they were important to us. How lucky I am that I have so many homes and so many people I can call family.
My heart is pumping, the world is whistling, and I am happy in my homesickness.