Live Through This

Home Is Where My Heart Is

Clinging to, rationalizing, and finally dealing with homesickness.

Illustration by Kendra

Illustration by Kendra

I spent most of last summer waiting for fall, when I’d finally get to move away from home for my first year of college. I daydreamed about the glamorous new life I’d be living in New York City and all the interesting new friends I’d make. I even downloaded a countdown app to my phone and set it to say “__ DAYS UNTIL I BLOW THIS POPSICLE STAND!!!” I didn’t really think about the fact that I wouldn’t be living with my parents anymore—not all summer, not during the drive to my new school, not while my folks helped me arrange the furniture in my new dorm room, and not even as we hoarded free mini quiches during the parents’ welcome reception. But when my dad went to get our station wagon and my mom started to say goodbye while she and I waited together on the sidewalk, what was about to happen hit me like a brick. For the first time ever, I would no longer be living with the people who knew everything about me, whom I felt completely comfortable around, who genuinely cared about my wellbeing. I started to sob uncontrollably, right in front of hundreds of my new best friends.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU’RE CRYING? You live TWO HOURS from college, Gabby. There are freshman whose parents live IN OTHER COUNTRIES. You are wasting the best years of your life crying on this curb right now, is what my head said, but my heart told me to just keep crying. My mom looked around nervously, then she hugged me and joked that if I really hated college, I could always move back home and she’d homeschool me. That night I texted her, “MOM JUST REALIZED I LEFT MY MUSTACHE REMOVAL CREAM AT HOME” which she interpreted as “S.O.S.” (Man, I need to ease up on revealing my most embarrassing qualities on the internet.)

My first day of sleepaway camp, my first day of junior high, and my first day of college all occurred at very different ages, buy they all made me sob like a baby. I do not look cute when I cry. My face gets red, my body convulses, and I start hyperventilating so I can’t get a word out. I become plagued with irrational thoughts: I start to believe that the temporary feelings of discomfort that most people experience while adjusting to a new place are going to be forever for me, that I’m never going to feel comfortable anywhere else ever again. I worry that, having seen me at my worst, people will forever think of me as a wreck and rightly avoid me. I worry that I will never be happy away from home. A montage of all of the best parts of my childhood home starts playing in my head—my mom pulling a freshly baked pie out of the oven, our dog frolicking in the backyard. It should be noted that my mom has never baked a pie that wasn’t frozen Sara Lee, nor do we have a dog.

See, this is what I do. Instead of doing what I think most people do—acknowledging my fear of this unfamiliar new situation, then giving myself time to adjust, I retreat into nostalgia and romanticize the idea of home. I act like someone who was just drafted and stationed overseas, or who is about to serve a harsh prison sentence, when I’m really just lucky enough to do something that lots of people wish they could do but don’t have the means to (college, summer camp). I act like a big fat baby. (Babies don’t realize how good they have it—I wish it were socially acceptable for me to scream and cry for seemingly minor reasons like being cold and hungry.)

There are a ton of ways in which being independent and living on my own are awesome. I love not having to argue about what pizza toppings to order because when you’re on your own, you control your own pizza destiny. No one bugs me about going to bed any earlier than I feel like. It took me about three months, and a few weekends back home, for me to be able to appreciate these things, but I’m pretty comfortable now, and sometimes even excited about the possibilities that living on my own affords. But I’m still occasionally hit with moments where I wish I were sitting in my parents’ kitchen. Sometimes it’s easy to see why this is happening, like any time this year that I had to wear flip-flops just to take a shower in the communal bathroom in my dorm. But other times homesickness will hit me out of nowhere, like when I’m on the train and I’ve had a long, tiring day and I see a woman with the same purse as my mom and I suddenly want to cry because I wish I could just complain to her and nap on our couch. Or when I’m grocery shopping and realize I’ve accidentally bought enough bananas for a family of four. And right after each such bout of homesickness comes a wave of shame: Shouldn’t I be enjoying my youth and my freedom instead of crying for my mom in the middle of the produce aisle?

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25 Comments

  • lover_gurl June 11th, 2013 12:07 AM

    Ah! i can so relate to this. i love being at home, in my room, with my mom, i dont want to leave! i know one day i’ll have to face it though and i hope it turns out just as good as yours did!

  • unefillecommetoi June 11th, 2013 12:27 AM

    i feel you girl (: it’s been almost a year since i moved out too and sometimes i’m on the bus crying, wishing i could just go to ballet class at my hometown and then watch game of thrones with my mom.

    • Melisa June 11th, 2013 3:44 AM

      You watch Game of Thrones with your parents? I could never hahaha love em but too much awkwardness.

  • Panda June 11th, 2013 1:18 AM

    This just hits me so much too! I had such a great relationship with my parents the only reason I wanted to leave was because I hated the town we lived in.

    I still think fondly about eating breakfast on my parents couch. I just felt so safe I guess. Adult life can be hard!

  • Iona June 11th, 2013 1:27 AM

    This was the most lovely article! I am going to live on the other side of the world for 6 months in three days and I am super nervous! But after reading your article I feel better… I can totally relate to everything your saying because I would one hundred percent prefer to stay home and watch Midsommer Murders and eat Wethers than do anything else, but it is great to get out there and do rad things and meet amazing people… and anyway home is always there if you need to go back super badly! Thank you so much Gabby… I think I’ll go and pack now!

  • elliecp June 11th, 2013 2:28 AM

    can totally understand this. you don’t necessarily realise how not-ready you are to leave home until you actually leave….and to be honest I don’t think most people ever feel 100% ready. But that’s a good thing, as it means you had a nice home, if you miss it so bad.

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • Samara June 11th, 2013 6:31 AM

    Oh my gosh, this is so so relatable, you write amazingly Gabby!! The 3rd and 4th paragraphs of the second page in particular (wow how creepy do I sound) are my life

  • Sophie ❤ June 11th, 2013 6:43 AM

    All I can say is that I love this!

    http://plainlysophie.com

  • Tara A. June 11th, 2013 7:26 AM

    This was a lovely article. In two years, I’m going to be going to university in another country and I don’t think I’m going to be ready to leave home.

    http://www.unlockingpandorasbox.blogspot.com

  • sissiLOL June 11th, 2013 8:28 AM

    Love this! <3
    stylebruch.blogspot.com

  • wallflower152 June 11th, 2013 10:23 AM

    Very relatable article. My parents are awesome but really overprotective. Not so much anymore now that I’m a bit older but throughout high school and even into college I could hardly do anything. I plan on moving sometime in the nearish future to somewhere new and exciting and I don’t really think I’ll get homesick but deep down I know I probably will. Gabby, I also blame my parents for a lot of my inhibitions cuz they “nurtured me too much.” My mom’s a stay at home mom and she still does everything (laundry, cooking, important adult paperwork, etc) for me and my siblings even though we are perfectly capable. And how I’m scared of roller coasters cuz when we would go to Sea World I wanted to ride them and my mom didn’t let me cuz it was too dangerous and now I won’t go on them when I’m with friends. My parents are awesome though, it’s so nice to just have them there every morning and evening.

  • Gwendolen June 11th, 2013 10:29 AM

    This is brilliant! I can really relate to the bit about denying really why you do/don’t do things but use your parents as an excuse. I’m in a really ‘Go change yourself into whatever you want to be!’ mood, so you’ve given me some food for thought… ;)

    http://theirfancies.blogspot.co.uk/

  • KatGirl June 11th, 2013 10:38 AM

    So true. <3
    Btw, I love today's background. If you look at it right it looks like the chairs are on different balconies of an apartment building or something. Balconies with no railings, though….
    Great article! :)

  • Maryse89 June 11th, 2013 10:44 AM

    I really relate to this even though I’m (almost) 24 years old!

    I think having a great home and relationship with parents/family members is a great source of strength when facing some of the difficulties and harsh realities of “adult” life…

  • Katherine20 June 11th, 2013 10:45 AM

    The first month of college was probably the worst month of my life. I never thought I would enjoy being away from home, but eventually I grew to love being away and at school. If I could get over homesickness, really anyone can.

    -Katherine
    http://kimkatfunspot.blogspot.com/

  • julalondon June 11th, 2013 1:41 PM

    This was really helpful, thank you so much. I’m going away in june and i’m gonna live on the other side of the world (for almost a year). I’m pretty scared, because my relationship to my parents and sister is as yours with your Family, we all get along so well and i know i’m gonna míss all the Little things we always do together. I’m gonna print this article and take if with me to read it whenever i Need it, because i’m gonna have to remind myself that i should be greatful for everything i have. Thank you again!=)

  • Sophii June 11th, 2013 3:30 PM

    I’ve always looked forward to leaving home but I’ve been thinking about it a bit more recently and realising that it probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I love my bedroom and all the things I’ve put in it. I don’t want to have to pay for everything myself like food and drink and rent and bills etc. I think I will miss my parents but I’m looking forward to being able to get on with making my own meals without them commenting on my veganism and being able to listen to my music without them telling me to turn it down. This is a great article x

    http://prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.co.uk

    http://sophiewilsonsbooks.blogspot.co.uk

  • Lauren75 June 11th, 2013 4:17 PM

    Fantastic piece – this is pretty much my life story too! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has felt like this, even thousands of miles away in the UK. I imagine my friends felt the same, but we never talked about it.

    It does get better, though! A year on, I’m half way through my degree and have sort of reconciled my hatred for my hometown with my homesickness, but I do find myself struggling to keep up with my old pre-university friends, while trying to forge lasting friendships here.

    I guess it’s about balance but it can be pretty hard to keep the scales even.

  • ksofiaa June 11th, 2013 4:32 PM

    I loved this so much. I’m moving away for college this summer and I can’t even begin to explain how scared and homesick (and I haven’t even left yet) I feel. Your story makes me feel calmer and more secure now. And I can totally relate to you in EVERY single aspect, so really, thank you for this awesome article <3

  • AnoHana June 11th, 2013 6:24 PM

    I relate to this article somewhat: I’m a terrible cryer as well (especially the hyperventilating, I become unable to speak properly when I am upset) and I’d rather watch a movie at home than ~go out~

    However, I am really looking forward to moving out this summer and living on my own during university. My mother is the complete opposite and often forbids me things, even though I am 19 years old and as responsible as a teenage child can be. But I’m glad that soon I’ll be able to have my boyfriend sleep over and to stay out longer than *gasp* 10pm.

  • Abby June 11th, 2013 8:37 PM

    I’m crying, because it’s like I wrote this.

  • diniada13 June 12th, 2013 12:28 PM

    Gabby’s writing always makes me happy <333

  • artobsessed June 14th, 2013 1:14 AM

    omg GABBY your witty and charming voice is really coming through in each new piece you write! you are such a perfect addition to the existing staff and i know we all cannot wait to see more!

  • hvit June 15th, 2013 6:28 PM

    “I thought I was the only freshman at my school who wasn’t having the time of her life, just soaking up the pure unadulterated freedom of leaving their parents’ house, blissfully partying in a togas, drinking beer from red cups, and doing other things that I had gathered college students do from watching too much TV.”

    I’m not even sure what year American college starts- but when I moved out to uni last September THIS DESCRIBED MY FEELINGS EXACTLY. I wanted to chat and watch bad TV, cook relaxed dinners and do crafts- basically behave like I was retired. I HATED uni for the first term- it was the utter worst. But now here I am, about to move back home for the summer and I’m gonna really miss stuff: miss spending £5 on chocolate and ice-cream on a whim without judgement, miss my friends I’ve made here and miss going anywhere I want whenever I want and so on.

    Also, most importantly I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be close to your parents and live away and be independent. I felt like I had to be cut off from them completely when I moved out, but that’s not true at all. There’s a great medium and for the next few years till I graduate I’ll have the best of both worlds. :)

    Thank you for this article, it was really really super. :)

    Sorry this was such a long and personal detailed comment! :D

  • Resh July 5th, 2013 4:32 PM

    Gabby! Congratulations on your Teen Vogue article! Both you and your bedroom are as fab as can be <3 Love ya x