Missing what is not

Moving overseas is a challenge. I expected to be a bit homesick when I arrived in the UK, and I was. I was also a bit homesick when my parents left after visiting over Christmas. These were normal and expected.

The surprise came over the last few weeks, when the homesickness came back with a vengeance. Far more than either time before, I missed my old life. I missed having lunch with friends every day; I missed going to the movies on weekends; I missed having pizza while helping out at CompSoc events. I missed how my life used to be back home.

The way to deal with these feelings is to talk about them, let others know you’re having a hard time and discuss how you can feel better. I went for the alternative approach: ignore it until you are miserable and actively avoiding social interaction because it could never be as good as the rose-tinted view of nostalgia. I isolated myself, keeping social interaction to a minimum; just enough to avoid suspicion, not so much as to feel any human connection. Yeah, not a great place; I am lonely and it is entirely my own fault.

I am still trying to deal with these feelings (there is a five week waiting list for a university counsellor, so don’t be in a rush) but I am slowly recovering. I am making a concerted effort, as much as I hate it right now, to be social. I am trying to eat proper meals again, and not skip two each day. I am trying to get back some semblance of a sleep routine, although that has never been a strong suit. I am trying to love my work again, because I know I do love it really (just not right now). I am not trying to forget my old life, just acknowledge that it is not my current life.

The thought that helped most was not actually some comforting memory or thinking that my new life here is all rainbows and sunshine. It’s not, but life never will be so suck it up; my life here is good, and that’s all I can hope for. Is it everything I had hoped? No, but I knew it wouldn’t be. After all, I was moving to a place that exists in the real world. Would I make changes? Hell yes, and I plan to make them, because it’s my life and there is no point in living a life I hate.

The thought that helped was simple, and I feel stupid for not realising it sooner: “The life I miss would not exist even if I was back in New Zealand.” When I left for the UK, the academic year in the Southern Hemisphere was still underway. I left my life in full swing. But time moves on, and people move away. The friends I had lunch with are now scattered between three countries. The friends I went to the movies with are in half a dozen different cities. CompSoc has new members, and the friends I had there have (mostly) graduated and moved on.

The life I miss does not exist. I have to move on, too.

Addendum: In case it was unclear, writing this is part of my ongoing attempt to improve my mental health. I think by writing, so I am trying to heal by writing. There is quite a lot of work ahead, but this is my first step to better mental health.

And just because it is such a great montage of such a great show: the flamingos.