Homesickness in the time of coronavirus

Last Monday started like any other; My alarm clock rang at 5 a.m. I had a hot cup of green tea, I read my book for half an hour; I tried a ten minute guided meditation (but mostly failed). I left my apartment shortly after six, when the sky was still dark and Sydney’s bitter cold penetrated the dark sky, and went to Gertrude & Alice, where I ordered a coffee. With a frozen latte in hand, I started the coastal walk towards Bronte, a route I usually follow in the morning. and one who is beautiful – even after almost five years in Sydney – I never get tired. An hour later, as the winter sun was slowly rising over the horizon, I met my friend Ellie at Bondi’s famous ocean pool, around which the waves were crashing menacingly, and I snaked my way back to the northernmost part of the beach. We talked about dating and work and Covid-19; about how unlikely the year had turned out to be guilty of being so far from home, about the uncertainty of future travel; and the subsequent impact it could have on our lives Down Under.

I do the coastal walk almost every day; and I am still amazed at the attraction of this city; through its great and boundless sky, through its glittering seas and the endless stretches of powdery sand. Not a day goes by without a silent prayer of thanks that I can live here. that I can call Bondi my home; that I live in such a beautiful bubble that feels safe and shielded and protected from reality – sometimes to its disadvantage.

But when I went back to the bookstore – my sanctuary, my happy place; my home away from home – I felt uncomfortable; and a gradual weight on my shoulders. I sat outside the bookstore, the familiarity of Bondi was no longer a comfort; and found messages to friends who had moved home. I asked them if they had any regrets about how they knew it was the right decision that spurred them to move home. and if they’d felt really happy since then.

And as I waited for their answers, it suddenly hit out of nowhere; the homesickness I hadn’t experienced since moving to Sydney for the first time; The guy who felt so consuming and overwhelming was the only thing I could do to sit with it and pray that it would pass. I found myself googling flights home; I looked at apartments in Richmond, Kew Gardens and Battersea and wondered what life would be like if I left Sydney. should I be going through the same upheaval I faced when I first moved to Australia? when I then moved to Ubud and then to LA. I imagined the ease with which I could see my parents and sisters, uncles and cousins; But I also imagined the grief and fear I would feel if I packed my life in Bondi.

A week later it’s still there; Simmer under the surface. The feeling of longing and sadness about what could have been, what could still be and what never was. The knowledge that belonging and longing are two strands of the same thread; The more I nurture and nurture my friendships in Sydney, the further I feel they are fading at home. That the agony and ecstasy of being torn between two countries has never felt more relevant.

The poet Byron once wrote the following: “All farewells should be sudden, otherwise they make an eternity of moments and clog the last sad sands of life with tears.” I can’t help but believe that when it comes to an end, I want my time to end immediately. No long and painful farewells; No farewell drinks, no poignant walks in which I linger longingly about the places I have known and loved for so long. A quick packing of the suitcase, a quick emptying of my apartment; A midnight hop to the airport for a barren flight from Sydney while the friends who have become family slept soundly, not knowing that I’d packed that night and gone for good.

Right now I am sitting feeling homesick and wondering if it will go away; or whether it will turn out to be more than just a phase. If Covid-19 will be the last obstacle between me and a life in Sydney; if it means the beginning of the end of my time down under.

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