I never knew what homesickness really felt like until I moved over 2200 km away from home. That’s 1367.017 miles, in case you were wondering (one of the many things I’ve had to adapt to, is converting distance and temperate from metric to imperial).
The differences between home in Ottawa, Canada and home in Southeast Alabama are stark, and I can’t say I was excited to be making the move just over 7 months ago. I missed my family and friends even before I left. Just the thought of being away from the support system I had known my entire life, turned me into a panicked mess of anxiety. I’m sure I can speak for most new military spouses when I say that leaving the stable and comfortable life I created at home was one of the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.
I missed everything about being home, bumping into people I knew at the store, weekend adventures with the same friends I’ve had since high school and even the chilly weather. I missed my family so badly that I couldn’t even bring myself to call them some days because it hurt my heart so bad to be away from them. After a few months of homesickness passed by, I started to wonder if I was cut out for this lifestyle. I knew it would be a long time before I’d ever live at home again, and the thought of that cut me deep.
My husband is wonderful, and he tried so hard to make me feel better. For my birthday, he surprised me by flying my sister out to see me. When I didn’t think it could get any better than that, he sent me back home with her. I felt like myself again once I was home. I did all the things I missed so much while I was away; I walked down to the park, took the bus into town and spent the day photographing all the beautiful buildings and statues I took for granted every day, I met my dad for a beer after work, laughed with my friends until we cried… I was so happy to be home – but I also didn’t feel complete. It was then that I realized my home was not just a place filled with my loved ones. It was also the person I vowed to take this adventure of life with, and without him, home wasn’t even the same.
After my visit was over, I left with tears in my eyes, but also with an eagerness to get back to the place I thought I hated. My new home, despite being so far away from my loved ones, was where my husband and I were creating new memories, finding new favourite places, and making amazing new friends.
Getting back to Alabama, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I changed my perspective of my new life, I would seize the adventure ahead of me and make the most of my time here. I would never decline an invitation that would allow to me make new friends, I would try harder to find my niche, and I would dedicate more time to pursuing my photography.
I’ve come to realize (as cheesy as it sounds) that home is not necessarily a single place, but a variety of places, of people, and of feelings. Home is the best friend I married, and our fur children. Home is the feeling I get when I see my family after long stretches apart. It’s the new friends we’ve made that we can count on for anything (shout out to my ‘bama besties), and the sense of community that the military life really provides.
This experience has taught me that with the support of the loved ones I left behind, I can always find my place, wherever I go. I can’t wait to see where life takes us next.