I got a letter yesterday from my cousin in Australia, which was the most wonderfully lovely surprise. I adore letters from home. Much more so than emails. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like emails. I like texts. I like Facebook messages. I will take any contact from home in any form that it chooses to come in. I’m not fussy. Anybody reaching out across the world and the internet and liking one of my stupid status updates warms the cockles of my heart (what is a cockle, by the way? I’m going to google it. Here we are: cockles. Weird.) But, there is something very special about a letter. Its usually longer than a Facebook message or a text. Unless its been sent through Moonpig or Amazon, the letter has physically been with the person who sent it to you, so I think that usually adds to the charm (in this hugely digital world, I’m still a material girl at heart). Letters require so much more effort, they’re longer, they’re handwritten, you have to get an envelope, go to the post office. You receive a letter and you know someone cares, you know because they’ve put in that much effort to contact you.
But even beyond that, I feel like letters are generally much more personal than other forms of messages. A writer I know suggested that writing things on a computer distances you from the writing much more than writing things out by hand. And I wonder if this is what often makes a letter so much more personal, special and warm than an email. A friend and I went through a whole year-long period of writing letters to each other (despite seeing each other 6 days out of 7) and I never felt like there wasn’t anything to talk about. There was always something more to discuss, another layer to analyse (I make it sound like we were writing essays on post-feminist theory to each other. We were 14. We were writing about boys. Constantly. Pages and pages and pages about boys. I don’t know why I’m being so judgmental. Most of this blog is about boys. Isn’t it? A bit of travel, I suppose. But mainly boys. Nice boys. Mean boys. Older boys. Younger boys. The lack of boys. Boys is a weird word. BOYS).
Anyway, the surprise letter was wonderful. I devoured it on the way to the pool, just managing to hold back the tears before jumping in the water. It wasn’t just the letter. It wasn’t just the effort that had gone into it or the disarmingly sweet writing or the peek it offered into my cousin’s life back home in Australia. The fact is, that after 2 years of not doing so badly over here, the past 3 – 4 weeks I’ve been feeling the familiar dull ache of homesickness.
I don’t know if its the time of year, or just that I’ve been away now for a considerably long time, but I have found myself pining for home a lot more recently.
It’s an odd feeling, because I know, deep down, that I don’t want to move back just yet. I’m quite happy staying in London until my visa expires in May 2014. I’m also not certain that I want to move home in 2014. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not I would like to keep traveling at that point, if there is somewhere else I would like to live or visit. Would I like to go back to Norway? Would I try out Berlin? Maybe Canada or the USA if I could figure out a way of staying there? There is this strange idea I have in my head that I moved overseas for a reason, a reason that I cannot articulate nor am I consciously aware of, but there must be some sort of reason, and until that reason is fulfilled (or, at least acknowledged), I just can’t go home. I’m like the heroine in my own fucked-up fairytale and I can’t go home until I’ve found the golden fleece or rescued the dying swan or saved the kingdom from disaster. But the problem is that I don’t even know what it is that I’m supposed to be doing yet. And at the same time, there is this other side of my brain which is desperately trying to convince me that life isn’t like that, things don’t happen for reasons, there is no neat narrative, you moved over here because you wanted to, you’re crazy and you’re possibly wasting all the useful years of your early life (when people establish themselves in a CAREER and a RELATIONSHIP with an INCOME and a HOUSE, with which to live on for the REST OF THEIR LIVES), in which case you should just move back home quick smart before any more damage is done.
And, underneath it all, are these growing pangs of homesickness. In my first year away, if I ever felt homesick, I’d just think, ‘Oh, yes, but it’s all there for you, whenever you want to go back. Home isn’t changing.’ And that would make me feel better. Of course, life still goes on back home without me (much as I would like to think it doesn’t) and maybe that’s just the problem. It now feels like I’ve been away so long (and will potentially be away much longer), that suddenly the prospect of real, massive and unnerving change back home is possible. I’m not really talking about anything in particular here. I just think I mean that the longer I’m away the harder it will to actually go back. The less it will feel like home when I do eventually go home. Because I do, in spite of it all, at this point, still expect to go back. One day. After I’ve rescued the dying swan from the crumbling kingdom and given it back its golden fleece.