(n) a homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or that never was.
I’ve been contemplating this post for nearly two months now. It was a greater challenge than I anticipated to put into writing the thoughts that overcame me the first time I read the definition of this word.
It seems pretty simple at first. You leave a place, you miss the place, and there is a physical barrier preventing you from ever returning to it. The second clause got me thinking, however. I tried to simplify it - you have an idea of a home that you miss, but that idea was never a reality. This only lead me to more questions. Why did you have this idea to begin with? Where did it come from? And why is it incorporated into this definition? How is it related to the real home you can’t return to?
I thought of my own experiences. Have I ever been permanently unable to return to a physical place that I call home? No. I may not know when I will return to the homes that I leave, but I know that there will always be to possibility of going back.
But what if home is not confined to a physical place? What if it is the combination of a place and a people in a certain situation at a specific point in time? If that is the case, no home can ever be revisited. Not in the same way it once was. You can miss it, dream of it, and long for it, but no attempt to return to it will ever be successful.
Every single thing a person experiences changes their perspective, their reality, and their being. And this in turn changes the way that person responds to and interacts with an environment. Nobody is ever the same from one point in time to another. The simple action of you leaving home alters the perspective you see it through. No experience you will ever have there again will be the same as it was before you left. If home is more than a physical place; no home can ever be returned to.
As for this of a home that never was? I thought of the times that I was homesick for Saskatoon. I would daydream about sunny summer afternoons wandering Broadway or playing Frisbee by the river. In my thoughts, family and friends always surrounded me. The sky was never too grey and the wind never too strong. But anyone who knows Saskatchewan weather knows that could never be the case. Maybe all the homes you are sick for are homes that never were. You long for the best in these places, forgetting the worst ever existed. You fabricate a fairy tale that though true in parts, never tells the whole story.
If the home in your dreams was ever as perfect as you remember, you never would have left it. You left because it was missing something. You came to where you are now in search for that thing. Rather than being homesick because of what you left behind, remember what it is you were moving towards. Search for it. Find it. Embrace it. Because one day you will leave it in hopes for something new, and you’ll want to believe you made the most of it while you had it.
Hiraeth does not describe a specific type of homesickness. It is simply a synonym for the word. Any home you leave can never be returned to and any home you long for never truly was.