Live Through This

Home Is Where My Heart Is

Clinging to, rationalizing, and finally dealing with homesickness.

I think I am a pretty independent person. I can drive and work and cook meals with vegetables in them. My parents always made me and my sister do chores and never coddled or spoiled us. What I miss isn’t being 100% dependent on my folks to tend to my every need—I just miss them. They have never been “ugh parents are the worst” kind of parents. My mom taught me about most of my favorite things, like thrifting and truly appreciating the beauty of lowbrow television. She is full of really obscure knowledge that makes watching Jeopardy with her almost impossible. We laugh at the same things and we can’t stand the same sorts of people. My dad always makes me feel super confident because he always trusts my judgment. Of course, we don’t always see eye-to-eye. We argue all of the time, just like normal parents and children. But I have no idea what it’s like to have an antagonistic relationship with your parents. I don’t know what it’s like to want nothing more than to get the hell away from them. I like spending time with them. They are so real to me; I can tell you things like what specific brand of creamer my mom puts in her coffee (Organic Valley half-and-half because she says the not-organic kind curdles and makes her feel sick) or where my dad scored the T-shirt he is probably wearing right now (Christmas gift from my sister). I missed our daily interactions: Every day after school I used to come home, lie down on the nearest floor, and complain about my day to my mom. She’d console me and put things in perspective, and then we’d watch whatever reruns were on the Hallmark Channel, after which I’d fall asleep until dinnertime. This does not sound like a party, but the familiarity and predictability of our routines was soothing. They were touchstones I could count on when I was feeling batted about by life. And now that I’m past that dark period, I can see that my homesickness is in a way a good sign: It means I had something that made me feel so comfortable and safe that I long for it now. I just can’t let it stop me from experiencing new things, and establishing my own life untethered to my family. But this is easier said than done.

My favorite Friday night ensemble is my flannel pajama set. Most nights, I’d rather read a good book or (more realistically) scroll through the archives of a good blog than go to a club. Do people my age even go to clubs? I don’t even know. I joke a lot about becoming a reclusive spinster or old cat lady, but those jokes come from a genuine fear that I’ll die alone, a social recluse, because I was too afraid to leave my comfort zone. Even when I’m at a party, surrounded by my closest friends, laughing and having actual fun, there’s always a small part of me that thinks, Ugh, I just wish I was at home, cuddled up under an afghan blanket, watching Antiques Roadshow and eating grilled cheese with tomato soup. (Yes, I do have a lot in common with most 85-year-olds.) Sometimes I even yell at my mom, “It’s not fair! This is all because you NURTURED ME TOO MUCH!” whenever I’m scared about going somewhere or do something new.

This is the downside of good parenting: Most people pray for children who, upon leaving home for college, are so scared to do anything that their parents warned them about that they’d rather stay home making crafts than attend a party. Any time I’m given a chance to do something vaguely “risky,” I can’t help imagining my parents’ disappointment, and I decline. Like, even something as simple as a SINGLE alcoholic beverage offered as a GESTURE OF FRIENDSHIP. It is very hard to discuss this without sounding like a D.A.R.E. program, I know. I don’t advise calling other people this, but really, sometimes I can be a enormous dweeb. I’ve probably avoided a lot of nonsense with this method, but I also feel like I’ve missed out on the momentary joys of being a reckless youth (no reckless youth would actually use the term “reckless youth”). My parents were never super strict, but because I like them and trust them, I took to heart the lessons they imparted, like “drugs are bad and illegal, so you probably shouldn’t use them.”

And sometimes I think I use the specter of my parents’ disappointment as a shield for my own fears. Like, I’m terrified of trying drugs, personally. And it’s easier to think, I better not do that, because it would make my parents really sad if they found out I got high, than to acknowledge that what I’m really thinking is What if I get high and then I do something stupid or out of character or dangerous. What if I die? Or worse, WHAT IF I REALLY LIKE IT AND EVERYTHING I HAVE BEEN TAUGHT HAS BEEN A LIE?

But it still feels like I’m holding myself back from something—I have this vague desire to be “young and adventurous.” I’m not really sure what that means or how much of it I am basing on the fictional lives of 29-year-olds who play 19-year-olds on television or on this gif. (I’m not really sure why I have this idea that youth equals being wide-eyed and glistening in a nightclub in the deodorant commercial that is my life.)

Right now I’m just trying to find a balance between being who I’ve always been, and learning who I might be in the future. Maybe this means finding other people who like to spend their time like I do, i.e., who are down to watch an entire television series in 48 hours or figure out how many ways we can incorporate potato chips into baked goods. For a while, I thought my miserable first weeks of school could be attributed to some special-snowflake brand of homesickness. 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. It was a total relief to learn (too late to help me through those early days, alas) that most of my new friends had experienced to some degree the same unsettled feelings I had.

It’s been almost a year since I moved out, and the world beyond my parents’ welcome mat has become much less scary. I love my school now, and I have real friends. I hadn’t really looked back on my dark adjustment period until writing this. I even go to parties now. They’re still hard for me, but I love meeting people there who might become good friends later. I especially love the part after the party where everyone goes out for late-night cheese fries and has long talks about our feelings. It almost reminds me of conversations I used to have around the dinner table, with my parents, at home. ♦


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  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • sissiLOL June 11th, 2013 8:28 AM

    Love this! <3

  • 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… ;)

  • 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.


  • 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

  • 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