Last week I read The New Globalist is Homesick in the New York Times about the persistent feeling of homesickness among immigrants and migrants. Susan Matt writes, “The global desire to leave home arises from poverty and necessity, but it also grows out of a conviction that such mobility is possible. People who embrace this cosmopolitan outlook assume that individuals can and should be at home anywhere in the world, that they need not be tied to any particular place. This outlook was once a strange and threatening product of the Enlightenment but is now accepted as central to a globalized economy. It leads to opportunity and profits, but it also has high psychological costs. In nearly a decade’s research into the emotions and experiences of immigrants and migrants, I’ve discovered that many people who leave home in search of better prospects end up feeling displaced and depressed. Few speak openly of the substantial pain of leaving home.”
I pondered my own experience of homesickness—or lack of it. I’ve traveled the world extensively and as a young adult lived on a 365,000 acre ranch as a cowboy for a summer, never feeling alone or yearning for someplace else. But recently I moved out of a home I had lived in for over 20 years and felt the nauseating nostalgia-sickness of watching everything I had worked so hard to establish get sold.
I think place is important because it is directly tied to our internal map of how we see ourselves. It may be tranquil, content and colorful like a Japanese garden. Or it may be an overgrown, un-cared for vacant field. I can’t imagine what it must be like for migrants to leave family and home in search of better prospects and I don't want to minimize or trivialize this pain. But I’m curious if upgrading internal relationships might be one antidote to pervasive homesickness? It certainly helped me get beyond the emotional pain of leaving a beloved place.
My learning is to remain intimately tied to a particular place--a place primarily within. Then I can notice that underneath the nostalgia sickness for familiar places is a desire to get centered and find deep gratitude. Once settled there, I can vision forward the new external places as expressions of my internal contentedness and gratitude. This allows me to better hold the conflicts that arise both in my work and in my life and upgrade my relationship with the way I see myself.