Thursday, March 22, 2012

Take me hoooome, country roads...

It's Thursday evening, we've just wrapped the April issue and I am sitting at my desk appreciating this New York Times op-ed about homesickness. It starts by citing a Gallup poll: 25 percent of earthlings wish they could move abroad, maybe permanently.

Hold your horses, earthlings! The grass isn't all green out here in expat-ville: studies show that foreigners living in foreign lands experience anxiety and depression at a much higher rate than their folks back home.

The hard data ends there and isn't exactly shocking, but I liked this part: 

"Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity. This silence makes mobility appear deceptively easy."

and this part:

"The persistence of homesickness points to the limitations of the cosmopolitan philosophy that undergirds so much of our market and society. The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family, from home and from the past. But this vision doesn't square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring."

I'm not exactly a "solitary, mobile individual" but I was for six months, until my main man James moved to town. It was tough! Actually, I might even call it one of my prouder achievements in life so far: moving abroad by myself to a city where I knew no one. It's empowering, but Lord it's not easy. James likes to joke that I put in all the leg work and he got to arrive on the ground with a group of friends; that's basically true. 

Everyone wants to hear the wacky tales of international tomfoolery. No one wants to hear about the nights you come home and have absolutely no one to keep you company. You don't want to call home and burden them with your blues. I read a lot of books in the bath those first months. 

And about that 'cosmopolitan philosophy,' I love my life here in Shanghai, but the prospect of making it permanent - away from the mountains and the ocean I grew up with - is not something I entertain. It's impossible to quantify this feeling, but the best way I can describe it is I wake up a lot of Saturday mornings and think: it would be nice to go walk on the beach or take a hike ... in America.  

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