Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Homesickness

The toughest thing here, on this topic, is where to start; but that is also the most necessary thing.

I wish I could say that I am not homesick, yet I look at a list of symptoms of homesickness and yep, I have a lot of them; and now it is up to me to seek some sort of help about them, and see what happens.

Homesickness for me is a particular thing, as I am not technically from the place I miss; I am a native Angeleno who was transplanted to Canada as a child and then again as a teenager, and thus I miss Ontario and Toronto, and not my actual hometown of Los Angeles.  There is likely a vestigial yearning for Los Angeles that I expressed elsewhere, one of uncomplicated sunshine - that may well be at the root of everything, and that has to do with the loss of my father in 1988 and the possibility, however small, of moving back to California at some point.  And not much, as you can imagine, can replace that.

But life in London for someone who longs for Toronto is almost entirely all wrong.  It isn't just that the local/national papers are unavailable here (yes I know they are online, but trust me, it ain't the same thing).  It's that so much of what makes me feel...safe?...is not around.  Not being 'at home' in London is a hard thing to get across to those who are from London or have lived here a long time; it is very much as if there is me and there is the rest of London and while the two connect once in a while, it's a true feeling of isolation.  I keep expecting it to wear off, as I volunteer, as I visit, as I make some acquaintances; but that distance remains and I don't know what, besides writing here and seeking some help, to do about it.

I of course could mention the many things that bug me about London, that still leave me shaking my head; but it's not as if people don't jaywalk in Toronto (they do, but not nearly so much, trust me) or ride buses like no one else is on them (ditto).  The inexplicable proliferation of razor scooters for kids and adults should not be a cause for alienation; the hardness of Londoners, though, does get me down.  To someone who feels out-of-place, vulnerable, like an outsider - these hard-faced & hard-thinking people are impossible to get to know and are seemingly everywhere, whether in person or in the form of some tick-box sheet of qualifications that acts as a barrier.  It has been, with a few exceptions, almost impossible for me to get to know anyone here, because social life in London is very different from social life in Toronto - where you can hop on a streetcar (and get a transfer!) and then the subway and go meet someone very quickly, half hour tops.  In London it takes longer to get to know someone, longer to get to their place (unless they are, miracle of miracles, in your neighborhood) and thus is tougher.  London is a huge place, dense, and yet when I travel in it (by bus; I need to see where I am) it is there and I am here; not part of it, but forever observing & noting.  I came from a city where a whole posse of people knew me & liked me, to a place where hardly anyone was truly interested in me (in a genuinely friendly way), and I in them.  I have volunteered and hoped to meet a real friend that way, but that hasn't happened, either. 

I feel I should note that as I was ill when I arrived and was in and out of hospital a few times that my hysterectomy could also be part of this whole thing.  It had to be done, but the psychological consequences of the operation were only to hit me much later - not intense ones, but ones that added to my feelings of being not quite 'right' in a culture where women are, for all intents and purposes, still seen as 'the girlfriend' or 'the wife' and are expected to have children and are, if I may say so, patronized.  (I am drifting into a whole different topic here, but I never felt inferior in Toronto, not culturally or socially.) 

How lovely would it be to meet other women, I think, other American women in London, but beyond students and mom-types, where are they?  I have met one socially who has been here a long time and adjusted almost immediately.  While I am happy for her she would not really be able to understand my problems.  I know there are clubs (w/membership fees) and meetups (varied) but I am never sure if those people would all be like her, happy and content.  I have even been advised to knit (knit!) and become social that way, by hanging out in a pub and knitting.  Something tells me that if I was that kind of person, I'd be doing it already...

So I am doing the first necessary thing; writing about it here.  I need to do more than that, but for right this moment, it is enough.