Going back to your hometown always ends up being a whirlwind of emotions. After all, there’s a multitude of reasons as to why you left, right? And, regardless of the motivations behind your departure, retracing your footsteps back to the place you once called “home” is always rough. Somehow, going back during the holiday season is even more puzzling, it adds another level of complexity to an already hard experience. It probably has to do with whatever is in the air during this time: the festive atmosphere, the countless family gatherings to take a look at the “prodigal child”, and the homesickness that consumes your bones.
What Kind of (Home)sick Are You?
- experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.
By trying to find a universal definition, society often overlooks those whose experience of homesickness deviates from its accepted interpretation.
Despite the general consensus, feeling homesick cannot be captured by one flimsy definition. In reality, much like most emotions, its meaning is too entangled with each person’s unique life and personal experiences that have shaped the term, as such it is not possible to come up with an exhaustive and universal denotation. In practice, we have settled for a one-line-long interpretation to put in our vocabulary. As a result, feeling homesick is typically associated with warm feelings, nostalgic thoughts, and a deep, timeless longing for the comfort of your home.
But is there more than a “one-fits-all” option?
By trying to find a universal definition, society often overlooks those whose experience of homesickness deviates from its accepted interpretation. Therefore, the term can be identified and stripped to its linguistic core: being “sick of home”, instead of yearning for it.
Imagine going back to the house where you grew up, surrounded by the familiar faces and routines, and feeling like an impostor: trapped, confused, and hopeless, as you’re forced to dust off an old suit that hasn’t been worn in a long time. And as discomfort and guilt flood your veins, you mourn the version of yourself that was hesitating to cross the threshold of your childhood home while there was still the chance to turn around and leave. Now, when you look back at the definition at the beginning of this article, it doesn’t really make sense, does it? Yet, this is one of the many realities that come with feeling homesick.
Despite society’s best efforts to dissolve the taboo trailing after words such as “mental health” and “trauma”, nothing much has been done to overcome the traditional idea that we must feel a positive emotional attachment to our hometown. Yet, the guilt and shame that accompany those who relate to the non-conventional version of feeling homesick are usually too great to be openly talked about over coffee or a drink, even with the closest of friends.
However, not everybody seems to shy away from awkward and sensitive topics. Namely, American singer Noah Kahan seems to scream “I am here, I see you, I’ve been exactly where you are”.
A Little about Noah
Noah Kahan, who is currently enchanting audiences across Europe on his “Stick Season” tour, is a singer and songwriter from Vermont, New England. Despite having been part of the music scene for almost a decade, his fanbase doubled in size thanks to his presence on social media.
The thing that sets him apart from other artists – for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of stumbling upon his gut-wrenching music and charming personality – is his commitment to sharing his lifelong battle with mental illness by advocating through his music.
The artist’s latest album, “Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)”, deals with an incredible variety of topics with its 21 tracks and “sweater weather” ambiance. More specifically, it shines an interesting light on the themes of nostalgia and homesickness.
Homesickness in Noah’s Music
In the song “Homesick”, Noah plays on the double meaning of the word. He shamelessly exposes the reality behind the dilemma of choosing whether to stay or leave your hometown, alongside the haunting consequences and “what-ifs” that both choices bear with them. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only song that carefully treads on the bittersweet and conflicting emotions that taint one’s notion of “going back home”.
On the other side of the spectrum, the song “Halloween” explores a moment in the singer’s life in which “home” was a person, instead of a place. However, now that this person is no longer present in his life, all that he’s left with is the desperate need to relieve the ache of feeling homesick and the bitter realization that this longing will haunt him, even as he attempts to run from it and move on (or away, if we follow the “home” metaphor).
These contradictory versions of homesickness seem to reach their peak in “The View Between Villages”. The singer is hit by an overwhelming epiphany as he drives back to his hometown for the holidays, mirrored in both the lyrics and by the increasing tempo of the music. The memories of the life he used to have in his village before moving away unfold in front of his eyes as he drives back to his hometown: his childhood, the losses he experienced, the months leading to his farewell, and the evolution that his persona underwent while being away. He ends with an acknowledgment of the presence of this inner turmoil and everything stills.
As the holiday season approaches, you may find yourself feeling an uncomfortable mix of emotions. You may consider some of these emotions inappropriate if they do not fall into the classic happy nostalgic association of homesickness, however, you are not alone. And if you ever feel like you are, maybe try to give Noah Kahan’s music a listen on your way back to your hometown.
Edited by: Ashley Young
Cover: LifeofPix/Naomi Dupont