I've been reading your blog for quite a while now, and am really fascinated by how wise and understanding you are (not talking about your lifestyle, view on life and many other things that inspire me all the time!)
Knowing how your job involves a lot of travelling and adapting to new cultures, I wanted to tell you my story, since I'm struggling with understanding, what the place I should be able to call "home" is.
My name is Aya and I originally come from Kazakhstan. It is now my 3rd year of doing my bachelor's degree abroad, and lately I've been having a lot of thoughts about who I really am and who I should be, which can sometimes be depressing. The thing is, trying to immerse myself into the new culture I am a part of at the moment, made me distant from my own home country. Not only physically, but also mentally.
So I feel like I am somewhere in between. I still can't get along with the people that surround me now and fail to fit in, but at the same time, when I go back home during holidays, I can see that I changed a lot, and that I no longer have a lot in common with my Kazakh friends from the past.
Knowing that you had to leave you home country and settle in different parts of the world, I was wondering if you ever felt that way. And if you did, how did you deal with that?
I hope the way I explained is not too confusing, and I would really appreciate getting a reply from you!
Hi there! Thank you for your kind words 😀 means a lot to me. And boy can I relate to your situation.
When I first moved away from Perth I had just turned 17. I had graduated high school, and went to NYC to try out modeling. I did not anticipate just how much changes in you when you leave home for the first time, and how much of a dissonance that brings up inside of you when you return home. Thomas Wolfe had it right, you can never go home again.
I spent many years feeling homesick for a home that doesn’t exist anymore, and that only existed for a very short period of time. I was living in a country that was so foreign to me, (still is, but that’s ok) and traveling so much with complete strangers. I found it extremely hard to forge a connection with other humans, due to language and lifestyle barriers. And boy was I homesick. Whenever I would come home for a bit though, I was shocked at how much nothing and yet everything had changed. My friends were still the amazing people they are today, but there was something in me that had shifted. And I still cant really put my finger on what that was; but it caused me a lot of pain. The fact is that you can never go home again, but learning this and accepting this stops a lot of anguish and self-doubt.
You are in the painful process of developing your sense of self. Those first few years of independence are years of discovery and development of character, and I found that this process gets sped up when you are far away from your home culture. Especially when you are at odds with what society around you is saying. This can really hurt, but I believe that getting away from where you grew up, at least for a few years is integral for self-development. So hang in there.
What really helped me was letting go of any attempt to become my new culture. I set out to learn as much as I could, to make new friends from the USA, and to see and learn as much as I could; but at the end of the day, I will never be from the USA and subsequently will never feel 100 percent at home. I will always be Bridget, who grew up in Australia and is now living far away.
In reading your question, the idea of “who I should be” came up. In my experience, should is a nasty word. It bestows this idea that you are lacking, and that you shouldn’t trust your instincts. This isn’t great. Learning to throw away should’s is extremely freeing. By all accounts I should be more social, should be more mindful, should train harder, and should dress more stylishly. But the fact is that I am introverted and need my alone time, sometimes sleep wins out over meditation, when I train harder I get injured and lose all my energy, and I just don’t care enough about clothes to pay close attention to them. Society has all these ideas it throws onto you about who you should be, but I say fuck that. Listen to your intuition and do what feels right to you. Because you will never, ever live up to whatever the hell it is that society wants you to be.
Maybe to help with homesickness you could try to find a network of expat’s in your college. I’m sure that you aren’t the only person going through this – try finding other people from your part of the world. If there isn’t some sort of organization, create one. Just having a reminder of your traditional customs can help. Maybe you can all meet once a month, cook food from home and talk about life. When I discovered Tuckshop in NYC the sound of Aussie accents was so nice. I then met a group of Australians who really helped with the homesickness. It came at a time when I really needed it.
Finally, remember at the core of it all, you are still the person who grew up in Kazakhstan. And all your friends are still the good people you loved at that point in time. You will all develop very different interests and become very different people, but at the essence of it, you are all the same. There was something that connected you with them, and that is still there. Just let the natural rhythm of your friendship find its new level.
Also this whole experience gets so much easier with age. So hang in there. Everything will settle in you, and life becomes a lot easier to understand and rationalize.
You got this 😀