The thin line between nostalgia and homesickness

I was home a week ago. I booked tickets at the last minute because a high school reunion was planned also at the last minute, and because I won’t get to come home for Christmas, this was the closest to any ‘Christmas’ celebration I would have and I didn’t want to pass it up. I was home a lot this year, mostly for weddings and reunions of the sort. ­Just before November ended, I was also home for a big celebration and in between, I met with numerous friends. It always feels good to come home despite the stress that is Manila.

There are seemingly normal things that I usually do when I’m home that are not any more “normal” to me since I moved out. Going to the mall is one of them. My sister and my friends joke that I’ve become so “provincial” every time I come home, wide-eyed and desperately craving to go shopping or stock up on things that we don’t have back in the province. I turn into a mall rat once I get home. I love Palawan and its laid back, carefree environment, but the buzz and feel of city life, of moving cars and lights and tall buildings and scent shops are things I miss. After all, I grew up in Makati, the commercial capital of the country.

One thing I do bring home with me is this attitude of being carefree. That even when I go to the mall, I am in truth, unhurried, slow, and easy going. I noticed this trait when I was home last week and decided to go for a leisurely, laidback shopping (not that it was anything necessary). It was not the frenzied type of shopping that people do because they are rushing to buy gifts for Christmas or because they needed to attend Christmas parties. You could easily tell that people were just busy by the way they move. Everything was calculated and hurried, no time was spent dilly-dallying. And I could very well understand it because the traffic in Manila is just horrendous. Add to that the rain, and every stressful face you come across is quite justified.

So there I was, strolling casually, pretty content going from one store to another, taking as much time as I want because I was in no rush to buy anything, having earlier decided that I had everything I needed to buy and I was just going to get additional stuff for people I might have forgotten. There was no agenda. No particular people in mind. Just stroll the mall, be carefree, and enjoy the much needed space and freedom from work. When I had done all that I needed to do at the mall, I spent the time at a café. And then rain came. It poured heavily such that I was stranded inside the café for over three hours. People were rushing to go home, their umbrellas were all out, and they were dueling it out with the wind and the rain. From outside my window, I could see chaos. I let time pass by as I enjoyed getting a cup of hot choco, reading a book, and quietly observing people. Another hour passed by and I was on my second cup and a carrot cake to go with it. By the third hour, I had taken out dinner, which I ended up eating at the café when it felt like the rain wasn’t going to let up. When it seemed like it has finally stopped, I decided to rush home.

Then it rained again, and this time, I was stranded. I was only wearing a waterproof jacket, so everything else from the waist down was wet. In truth, I was just 20 minutes away from home. But because I couldn’t move from the traffic and the rain, and now the swelling flood, it seemed like it was going to be a long night for me. I found myself stuck in front of a barber shop with other people looking for cover. Jeepneys passed me by and people were scampering to get on them. Cabs won’t let people in and the water was rising just a little above the ankle. There is always that rational fear of getting leptospirosis, and with an open wound which I recently had from a pedicure, I didn’t want to risk it. So I didn’t budge.

The funny thing was, while it seemed so chaotic compared to the earlier carefree scene, I was actually enjoying the moment. I even found myself laughing weirdly and a monologue was happening in my head. What a memory this was making for me because where else would I experience being stranded, stuck in flood, and experiencing such stress than in Makati where I live? This used to be home. This is home.

I recognize just how “different” my life has now become since I moved out. Things I used to take for granted, and things I used to not enjoy, for some weird reason, I miss them, to the point of nostalgia.

***

The reunion with my friends took place the next day. My own lot. Friends I have known since I was in kindergarten and friends who know me and with whom I share some very, unforgettable memories.

Teasing. Jokes. Friendly banter among friends who grew up with each other. We were about 18, and I was the only single person present in that group. That fact was not lost on my guy friends, and they took every opportunity to tease me about it. I really tried not to get offended because these are people who I know and these jokes are very normal in our relationship. The intention wasn’t to hurt you, but in a weird, only-friends-will-understand kind of way, it was to make fun of what they know about you without the intention of hurting you. (Weirdly enough, it hurts you but you let it pass). I don’t know if that made sense, but that’s how it is with us. I knew they were just teasing me about my very barren dating life, but it offended me in a way that was personal to me. It was like this deep, personal ache was made fun of, even though they knew nothing about it. My guy friends can most of the time be very immature and insensitive, and I’m supposed to be mature about it now and handle things differently. But because it came from friends who knew me and all my history in the past, it made the remarks even more hurtful.

You know the weird thing again? These banters made me feel homesick. I have grown up with these people and though you wish some things would change, there’s also that part where you are well adjusted to the fact that things are still just the same as they were 15 years ago.

My best friend posted a link on Facebook that aptly described this feeling.

The people you meet as adults meet you at your best. They know the polished you, the grown-up you, the you who is capable and put-together and strong. They know the you that you have spent years perfecting, but they don’t know the you who came first.

They don’t know who you were before you knew any better. They don’t know the you who was still figuring it out. They weren’t there for every night you spent wasted or foolish or crying on the bathroom floor. They don’t know the times when you needed real help – when you were too out of control of yourself or too at the mercy of others. They weren’t there to pick you up when everything fell apart. They weren’t there to catch your first real falls.

No matter who we meet and fall platonically in love with as adults, there will always be a special place in our hearts for the people who knew us at our most vulnerable. For the people who helped us grow, who coached us into ourselves, who caught all our mistakes and misgivings. Those people know us in a way that nobody else ever truly can again. They know the raw parts of us, the messy parts. They know the intimacies that we spent years learning to cover up afterwards. They know all of the parts we later learned to push down.

I felt even more homesick, because in Palawan, while I am with new friends, none of them really, really know who I am apart from what they know of me now. They know me to be this and that, but the liberty of being able to share yourself as you are,  that belongs to friends you grew up with. That was also probably why the hurt hurts, because they were from friends who know you, and they were from friends who you think should know you by now.

Home is a place where you feel loved, and where you also get hurt. But it is home nonetheless.

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