Have you ever experienced home sickness? I really think there is a reason it’s called that, sickness. Because that’s how it feels, like a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach you can’t escape from, your heart actually hurts and you feel nauseous.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love living here in Canada, it’s been good for me in so many ways I can’t list but I need to describe to you how it feels to miss something deep down in your bones.
When you first arrive it’s so exciting, everything is new and different. The road signs are different, being in Quebec they are primarily in French so even the language is different. The supermarkets are laid out differently than back home and there are a massive range of new foods you have never even heard of let alone tried. Then it hits you.
You stand in the middle of this supermarket with the strange lay out and the new language and you see everybody bustling by you, knowing exactly what they are doing and where they are going and you desperately start to search for something you know, something familiar, anything that will remind you of home. A tiny straw to cling to.
The bread is a new brand, the milk comes in plastic bags, the cream cheese is in solid blocks and the eggs are white. You are lost. The very first supermarket shop we did we were jet lagged, disorientated and stressed. I cried on the way home and wondered just how we were going to manage this.
But you do, you slowly start to learn your way around and when you shop not from a desperate need because you quite literally have bare cupboards, but because you are simply topping up, you can take your time, look around and enjoy all the amazing new things your new home has to offer. The day comes when you no longer need to use a GPS to get around or you no longer stand staring blankly at a shelf trying to decode the French. You feel at home.
But it never goes away. That home sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. You subconsciously seek out television shows with accents the same as yours, you find a shop that sells a familiar brand and you cradle it, the first time I discovered self-raising flour I wept in the middle of the shop floor. I know the location of every British shop within an hours drive.
A big event comes around, be it a birthday, an anniversary, Christmas, anything like that and you realise just how far away everybody you love is. Your bones ache with a need to be back to something you know instinctively. Even if you hated it with a passion you want to do the school run you knew one last time. You want to walk down to town from your house instead of taking your car to the mall, you want more than anything to watch someone you love blow out the candles on their cake.
You make friends where you move to, it’s inevitable. Everybody here is so damn nice it’s hard not to! You love them to pieces and you have a great time with them. But every now and then you remember a particularly crazy night you had with old friends and you feel a little empty with need for that again. To lie on the floor of your friends living room and put the worlds to rights again after a massive session of Just Dance on the Wii!
It does fade with time, the sickness part, but every now and then when you maybe haven’t had enough sleep or your feeling run down with cold, the times you are vulnerable. The sickness hits you like a sledgehammer and takes your breath away and for a moment you would give everything up just to sit on the harbour side and eat fish and chips from the wrapper in the rain.
The funny thing is, I know when the times comes to leave here I will feel it in reverse too, I will miss the snow, no matter how much I hate it! I will miss my friends and some of the insane nights we have had singing strange karaoke songs and pony dancing around bars. I’ll miss the summer times and the lying around the pool and despite the food being different I will miss that too and will find myself looking for Canadian online stores for my maple syrup hits.
I wonder, once you’ve done it, once you’ve uprooted an entire life and settled it somewhere else, does it ever truly go away, the sickness? No matter where I go now and what I do will I always miss something I used to have, deep down? I’m only really going to know the answer to that with time, but despite it all, despite how much hard work it is, despite the lack of the familiar, I would do it all again. Life is an adventure and now I know I’m strong enough to face it head on.