What Homesickness Is Really About: Blame Evolution

Budhanilkantha School's Annual Sports Day
Photo Credits [HERE]

I will probably never forget my first day at my old residential school where I spent nearly a decade. I had just turned ten, and here I was greeting Animesh (857C) of Annapurna House who introduced himself as my "guider brother" with a very, very firm handshake (he always acted like he wanted to be in the American Military, trying to kick doors open and wailing "hands where I can see you"). Apparently, he was supposed to train me into the culture of this fantastic establishment I had somehow, fortuitously, got myself into. I vividly remember the day being absolutely beautiful; the sun was warm and high, birds were chirping all around and a huge dose of fresh mountain breeze greeted me wherever I put my stride.

Everything was great.

Until that very first night when it really dawned on me that I was not going back home for a very, very long time. At full force, it hit me. A strong sense of loss. Loneliness. Abandonment. A longing of a loved a one. Longing for whoever. I didn't sign up for this. Heck, I wasn't even remotely ready. 

I cried.

I wish I had cried in silence. I really do. But nope. I broke the first rule in boarding schools; don't cry (in public). I am sure Animesh with the rest of the whole goddamn dormitory, including the neighboring dorms remember my wails crystal-ry clear. If I could go back in history and change ONE thing, that would be it. Because all the pretending to be sick and trying to get out from the school to bullying that came after for years, was not pretty. 

Such an emotional kid. Just needed a firm slap on the face. 

After nearly 18 years of living away from home, I can finally look back and understand what it really means to be "homesick." Did I ever feel that way again? sure, multiple times over. Was it because I was away from home. Interestingly, a firm no.

What I was experiencing was exactly the same feelings I had experienced during death of a much loved friend. The same experience when my cousin, who was the same age, passed away. The same feeling when I got dumped -several times over- over the years. The same excruciating loneliness mixed with a sense of helplessness and abandonment. The exact same overwhelming cocktail of emotions that overrode rule no.1 back on my very first day at school. 

What Emotion to Blame?

If you applied the 20-80 principle and looked at it subjectively, I can see one emotion in particular creating 80% of the pain; it's clearly extreme feeling of loneliness that plays the catalyst for so many host of other overwhelming negative sentiments. 

Evolutionary trends show that human beings are deeply tribal. While individuals do exist on their own, their chance of survival to external threats increases dramatically if they placed themselves in a society. You see evidence of that time and again; people joining gangs, groups, support groups, being member of club, supporting a club, being "BFFs", striving to find a partner to create this zone of comfort among themselves knowing well that if external threats appear in any form or shape, he/she has a backing. It's a good system to protect yourself. A good system to co-exist and co-live. 

A good system to not be lonely.

The same reason why countries like Nepal are so deeply, deeply divided. Because citizens are orphans, without any proper care from the state, they improvise and form their own mini-Nepal. Mini-Nepal based on their political affiliation, their caste, their families and become extremely protective of their members hampering any effort for a cohesive unit to move the country forward. 

All this to avoid being left out. The need to be accepted. The need to be not lonely.

Reverse that and you can see how extreme loneliness triggers homesickness. Surround yourself with people you don't know, away from the circle of comfort that you grew up with. The sudden realization of being left out of the tribe, out into the jungle, to face the dangers on your own. Can be harsh who hasn't actually realized the reality of it all. 

Cushioning the Fall

You come alone, you go alone. So simple, yet it speaks out such strong ideals. Unless you can come in terms with the worst possible case, the case where in the journey that we take on this earth 7.6 billion other co-habitants, life can still be bizarrely lonely. A life where you feel you are the only person wandering this vast landscape of both digital and real can be so apparent. 

Loneliness is, get this, by default. 

Weirdly enough, accepting that you can be lonely at times can actually make your social life better. Why? Because you don't rely on someone to create that sense of happiness for you. You don't rely on a particular group to protect you. You don't try to overly please people and become overly accommodating to the point where people start abusing you (which has happened so many times). And if people can sense that, if people can sense that you are your own best friend, they will gravitate towards you and not the other way round.

Ironically, what saved us from extinction for so long is what is going against survival in today's world. It's OK to be lonely, it's OK to be left out in the open. 



Popular Posts