It starts off slow, almost eerily so. Depression, it creeps in like a thick fog, suffocating you mentally and physically. By now I know the feeling all too well. I can recognize the signs. I can feel the tightness in my chest begin to take hold, and yet despite my experience in this particular department, preparing for the inevitable is futile at best. At this point in my life, the experience has become routine—the steady flow of doubt and uncertainty that persistently begins to weigh heavily on my conscience is something I’ve learned to endure.

One would assume that considering how much I’ve travelled and how long I’ve been living away from home, that I would be immune to the debilitating nature of homesickness. I naively assumed that this time around would somehow be easier. How could it not be?

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Hermanus, South Africa. 

I’ve grown and I’ve matured over the years. In my early twenties, I enjoyed the vast wonders that Germany and Western Europe had to offer. I enjoyed every minute of living abroad—I met new and fascinating people, I immersed myself in an entirely new culture, and I drank my body weight in beer several times over. I had a lot of fun and I was lucky enough to take-part in experiences that, unknowingly to me at the time, helped to influence the person I am today.

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Fun aside, when the homesickness began to trickle in, I became helpless. I remember feeling utterly lost and severely depressed.  It was a vicious cycle: reminiscing about my friends and family was soothing, but the more I craved the comforts of home, the more deeply I would find myself falling into depression. Luckily, whether you’re lost or not, life moves on around you, so I eventually picked up the pieces and found a way to cope with my depression more effectively.

Since my stint in Germany, I’ve moved around, a lot. I’ve quite literally been living out of a suitcase and on the couches of gracious friends for the last five years of my life. Naturally, I held the perception that fucking off to Malaysia for a little while would be a cake-walk. However, what I failed to take into consideration this time around is that after years of running, standing still for even just a second unveiled deeply buried demons that would now demand my attention. Suddenly, the sinking feeling of missing home has become an overwhelming burden that I carry around every single day.

My days are filled with books, writing, friends, spicy food, and new adventures; in most respects, I live a wonderful life. I remind myself every single day how lucky I am to be in Malaysia, part-taking in an experience that most people only dream of, and yet the gnawing feeling that I should be home, that I should be in Canada, is relentless.

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Why am I here? It’s a question that I have finally begun to contemplate after years of blissful ignorance. I love to travel and I love to discover the unknown, that’s apparent. I thrive when presented with new challenges, namely picking up and moving to a new city, a new country, a new community. Moving has become second nature, virtually effortless.

However, I’ve had my fair share of missed opportunities, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve missed countless family weddings, best friends’ birthdays, and monumental occasions that are important to the people I hold dear. Regretfully so, I’ve even missed the death of close family members. When it comes down to it, I feel an immense amount of shame for my inability to be a consistent and reliable presence to the people I love the most. Yet, it wasn’t this guilt that suddenly compelled any sort of self-recognition of internal confrontation. Rather it was the realization that after years of searching for some sort of answer, I was still utterly and entirely lost.

I was under the impression that constantly moving around would not only pose an infinite number of challenges to appease my restless personality, but would also somehow shed some light on the person I was destined to become.

What I’ve slowly come to realize, however, is that moving around isn’t the challenge, it’s staying in one place long enough to acknowledge that the person I am today is a constant work in progress, and that’s okay.

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To be homesick, to feel lost, to experience depression, these are all realities that I’ve actively suppressed since the moment I left home at 17. Whether it’s because of pride or pure ignorance, I failed to appreciate the value in understanding the madness of my incessant need to constantly leave. The value, I’ve at last come to interpret, is that I am who I am because of what I miss the most, not because of what I’m looking for.

Both given and chosen, I am privileged to have a loving and supportive family that for better or for worse, stand by my side. They make me laugh and they keep me grounded, what more could one ask for? But what I miss, what I seem to be yearning for, is more than just the wonderful people I am blessed to have in my life, it’s also the innate connection I have to the country that has shaped the person I am today, and the individual I will become.

Canada is my home, and will always be my home. The endless opportunities I have been allotted, the bountiful resources I have at my disposal; the beautiful yet harsh landscape that has raised me, and the diverse people that enrich the young nation I call home are influential factors in my life that I have taken for granted. Reflecting, I’ve realized that my friends and family, as well as the politics, the culture, and the intrinsic social fabric of Canada has carved out the adventurous, free-spirited person I am today.

Experiencing the crushing weight of homesickness time and time again has and will continue to be a challenge. At the same time, I’ve come to the realization that it’s my connection to home that has pushed me out the door. This contentious relationship has enabled me the invaluable opportunity to not only see the world from a different perspective, but to understand how I can contribute to the world in a valuable way. And that lasting understanding is worth every temporary moment of missing home.

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