My parents and brothers left on Sunday afternoon for Toronto after spending a week in the rainy British capital. There were moments when their visit was marred with tension (You should think about buying a house. Why don’t you try online dating? There is still time for graduate school), but by and large I revelled in being able to do the little things that I can’t anymore. Waking up and having a fresh baguette with my Dad. Drinking masala tea with my Mum. Talking hockey with my older brother and shopping for vinyl with my younger one. The simple act of being able to sit on my parents bed at night, clad in my pyjamas, recounting the events of the day is something I cherish like a precious jewel. The joy that ripped through my veins as I hugged my brother after months of separation was enough to make me shed tears.
And that’s what I’m doing now. Crying. I cried when they arrived and I cried at the airport when they left. I cried five times after that, and erupted in tears again while I was Skyping with them last night. I try to hold the tears back. I am a grown woman, who has been through more in her 29 years on this planet than most people will ever endure in their lifetime. Each time, I have bounced back, resilient, grateful and humbled. So why can’t I handle living in one of the greatest cities in the world?
I feel like a fraud sometimes. Friends and family are envious. Oh, but you live in London. How can you be sad? It’s so awesome there. It is awesome but it’s also isolating, lonely, and hard. London is a hard city to be in. I moved here without having a social circle in place and when I arrived, I didn’t have the benefit of school or nice workers to ease me in. I have a large extended family here – and thank god for that. If not for them, I would have been on a plane back to Toronto. I’ve been here for almost 2 years now and it still hasn’t gotten much easier. I struggle day in and day out. And I don’t want to admit it. I can’t fail at London. If I can stick it out, make it here – well, I can make it anywhere, right?
I remember when I moved to Los Angeles, I checked into my hostel and then brought my suitcase to my room. I stood in the middle, stared at my reflection in the mirror and burst into tears. Rather than be excited about the prospect of following my dream, I longed for the warmth of my father’s arms around me. I wanted my Mum’s food. I thought I would grow out of it but as I approach 30, I’ve realised that sometimes you just never get over being homesick. And that’s okay.
I’ve travelled alone a lot and lived abroad by myself for years. Without realising it, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms for homesickness that I’m going to share with you all today.
Shower cries: Shower cries are where you tell your flatmates that you’re just going to go take a quick shower but what you do when you get in there is you turn the water on full blast, making it really hot and steamy. And then you cry. It is absolutely cathartic because you feel like your entire body from the inside out is being cleansed. You sob and sob. While you’re sobbing, use some fruity shower gel, such as Mango and Passionfruit. Thoughts like ‘Why is life so hard’ and ‘Why does this happen to me’ and ‘How come I can’t get it together’ will go through your mind. Let them. When you are finished your shower, I promise you will feel better. Bonus: You will smell like a Body Shop.
Gilmore Girls Re-Runs: Or any of your favourite feel good shows. Another one is Modern Family. But Gilmore Girls is my favourite. There are tons of episodes to run through and the fast-talking antics of Rory and Lorelai always make me smile. Also Paris Geller – how is she not the best invention ever? If I’m feeling down, I pop one of these on, grab some chocolate and chill. Right now I’m on Season 3, Episode 8 – it’s been a particularly rough few weeks.
Exercise: This will be the LAST thing you want to do. But it really helps. Even today, I’m supposed to be joining my running group in the evening. It’s a gorgeously sunny day in London (so rare) but right now all I want to do is continue to watch Gilmore Girls, eat yogurt and cry. I was blessed with a ridiculous metabolism so can get away with not lifting a finger, downing 2000 calories a day and still have the body of a svelte 17 year-old. It doesn’t help because I don’t have much motivation to exercise. But I’m going to drag myself out of my funk, even though I’m not excited about it now. I will be by 6 p.m.
Remember Why you Moved: This is another great one, but I recommend you wait until after your shower cries. It’s too easy to romanticise things when you are sad or emotional and think that going back to where you came from is the best thing to do. The reality is, each time I have picked up and moved, it’s because I wasn’t pleased with my current situation. If you’re struggling with homesickness in your new city, think back to what motivated you to leave your previous town. Would you be happy going back to that? If so, then go. Life isn’t a competition and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. But if you know you wouldn’t be happy, stick it out.
Talk to People: This includes new people you meet in your new city AND your friends back home. Without my friends from Toronto, I would probably be dead by now. They have been a proverbial lifeline for me, responding to my emails and messages, Skyping with me when I’m down and reminding me that the most important thing in life is to be happy. I have had such rotten luck with meeting people in London – it’s like everyone is struck with a serious case of the nasties – but this doesn’t stop me from smiling and being gracious. Remember – you can’t control how people will act towards you (even if you are the most adorable Canadian girl in the world) – all you can do is control how you react. Smile. Be nice. If they want to be rude, then hey – that’s on them.
Do Things: You’re not going to adjust to life in a new city by sitting in your room alone, watching Gilmore Girls (ahem). I am actually amazing at following this rule. In the past year alone I performed at the Olympic Closing Ceremonies, went to a bunch of sporting events, joined a running club, travelled within Europe, attended weddings, took myself to concerts and films, ate in restaurants alone and basically just had a ball. It is fun being here and I don’t prescribe to this rule of thought where you think you need to have someone to do things with. No. Not this girl. I get out there and I meet people. It may just be a girl I chat with for the night. It could be a guy who I date for a few weeks. If you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to grow.
And Don’t Feel Bad if Doing Things Doesn’t Yield a Million New Friends: This one is harder. It’s what I cry about the most. It’s that whole ‘Hey God. I’m doing everything right. Why haven’t you shown me my fabulous new Sex and the City-esque ladies? Why are we not all laughing around a table with salad and martinis? Where is my sassy Black gay boyfriend? How come I’m not dating a Premier League Footballer? Hmmm?’ Again – you can’t control how things happen – but wasn’t it better to have gone to Wimbledon anyway even if you didn’t walk away as Tsonga’s new GF? Yes (also no).
Talk to your Mum. And your Dad: You are lucky to have both. I have friends who have sadly lost one or both parents, who never had the strong bond I share with my brothers and who would rather eat dirt for a year than go on vacation with their family. I would rather spend a Saturday night with my parents than most people I know. The older I get, the wiser they become. Sometimes they are super annoying, but overall, it’s such a blessing to have family you love.
Have a Plan: But be flexible. They say that life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans. It’s so true. It’s very rare to have things work out exactly as you had envisioned them. If this were true, I would be married to Drake, have a mansion in Brentwood, supporting actress roles in every musical currently in existence, and a line of perfumes on QVC. I would also be a Grand Slam tennis champion, which, given that I weigh in at a pathetic 90lbs, is impossible. This plan didn’t work out for me so well. Yours might not either. Know where you’re going, but don’t be afraid to take a detour (oh that sounded so Oprah-ish!)
Go Home: There is nothing wrong with saying ‘Hey. This London (or Sydney or New York) lark ain’t working out so well. I don’t care about partying with the Chelsea football team. I want to go home and drink Tim Horton’s coffee and ride the TTC (okay maybe not that) and cheer for bad sports teams.” I haven’t made my decision yet (life threw me a bit of a wrench and I will be in London at least until the fall). BUT when it comes time to make the choice, I’m finally okay with going back if it’s better for me in the long run.
I hope that was helpful for some of you readers. If anyone has any tips to share, please do. Now it’s time to dry my eyes, finish my Gilmore Girls episode and get out for a run.
You can read more from Priya Patel on her blog.
Feature image via.