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  • Writer's pictureJustin Shaw

You Can’t Go Home

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

What is the cure for homesickness? Well, as the name might suggest - the cure is going home. It’s not exactly rocket-science, it’s in the name, afterall. If only other modern ailments were that convenient. Historically, combatting the feelings of missing home have been fairly remedibable. This past year, that all changed. 

Beginning near the tail end of 2019, covid-19 burst onto the scene. While many brilliant scientists are still hard at work experimenting, a vaccine for the virus has not yet been discovered. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as homesickness - an ailment who’s discoverer had the forethought of including the cure in its name. God help the beer industry if the same can be said for coronavirus. 

How does the very real, very threatening covid-19 virus measure up against homesickness? Well… it doesn’t. When comparing the validity of two aliments, one can look as far as any medical journal to understand that one is a potentially fatal virus, and the other is born only out of feeling. Unfortunately, even when measured against other far more factual ailments, that doesn’t make said feeling any less painful. I won’t be the person who cures coronavirus. But I hope I can be the one to cure homesickness - at the very least, for myself.

I’m originally from Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, and have been away on-again off-again for about six years. When I’m away, my heart aches for the comfort of the red sand, the soul pines for the Brackley waves, and gut grumbles for Richard’s lobster rolls. Every time I leave, I always have a sense of when I’ll be back. As the plane leaves the Charlottetown airport, I itemize and prioritize the things I want to do as soon as I return. 

1) Hug my family at the airport.

2) Take a sentimental drive around with the family before reaching home. 

3) Have dinner at a locally owned restaurant.

4) Catch up with friends over a drink at a pub.

5) Go to bed, and rest without thinking of when I have to leave again.

In reality, the execution of said list looks more like this:

1) Text my friend where they parked at the airport.

2) Wait for said friend to get to the airport after they were “stuck in traffic”

3) Get dinner at the McEsso near Stratford.

4) Realize I’m out of shape and feel exhausted… possibly from the McDonald’s

 (“boy it’s late isn’t it? It’s already… 8pm? Oh…”)

5) Go to bed, and rest without thinking of when I have to leave again.

This, historically, has been my remedy for combating homesickness. 

And now the question has changed: what is the cure for homesickness when you cannot go home? 

The answer: you accept the fact that you can’t go home because it’s better to be homesick than not have a home to be sick for. How’s that for a tough pill to swallow? It’s like Buckley’s: it tastes awful, and it works. 

Why can’t I go home? Current travel restrictions only permit those residing within Atlantic Canada to travel to and from PEI. That means those foolish enough to have aspirations to work in the arts away from home and not thinking ahead to buying a summer home in Stanhope are left outside of the bubble. In short: I can’t go home. And if I want a decent night’s rest, this is a fact I need to accept. 

Don’t get me wrong, I tried many, many other remedies. I tried being jealous of those who can go home. This led to me being angry, resentful, and frustrated at them for getting to go to my home when I can’t. But the more I’m jealous or resentful, the more I miss home, and I’m back to where I started. I hold no ill will to those who get to be where I cannot. 

I’ve also tried deluding myself that maybe, someday, somehow, all of this will just go away and things will go back to normal and I can stop hearing about all this “new normal” I keep hearing talked about on the news. But once again, the more energy I invest into chasing thoughts about what may not come for a very long time, the more it exhausts the heart.

Finally, I tried simply sitting down, slowing down, and letting my heart break one piece at a time. This, generally, is always the last step because hearts don’t like to be broken - and they will protect themselves at all costs. In that moment, it’s not until you can look at the fragments of your broken self and see the pieces of who you are. Part of seeing who you are is discovering what truly matters to you. I learned that my homesickness isn’t because of the Island itself. As much as I want to fantasize about the dirt, the waves, or delicious sea-bug sandwiches, the true heart behind home lives in the people. Right now, what matters most is the health and well-being of the people. If that means not being there for a little while - so be it. It’s time to face the truth.

The truth is I am afraid. I am afraid that my Mom might get sick from burning herself out going to work everyday supporting senior citizens in need. I am afraid that she spends most of her waking hours putting other’s needs before her own, and was already caught in the most recent virus scare. I am afraid because, even after the moment she was told she was virus-free, she will get back on the horse and ride back to the place that nearly knocked her down.

I am afraid for my friends who lost their jobs this summer and are feeling the grind of hard times. I am afraid because PEI isn’t exactly crawling with job prospects - especially for those in the arts. I am afraid because the hard times attack more than just the bank account - they aim directly at the heart. I am afraid of their hearts breaking too.

I am afraid of the citizens who live in fear of the spectre of the virus, and key cars, and threaten those with out-of-province plates. I am afraid that if they are worried they will lose sight of the proper steps to seek safety for themselves and those around them by taking matters into their own hands. I am afraid of the hands that write “get the f*ck back to the mainland” on a note and leave it on a car. I am afraid that people think they can engage in fisticuffs and still abide by social distancing regulations. I am afraid for the one hundred thousand worried hearts that are adjusting to the population increasing as travel restrictions losen. I’ll say it again: I am afraid of those who key Dodge caravans with Nova Scotian plates - seriously, no need for that. If they own a Dodge caravan, they have enough troubles.

Admitting I am afraid has been the toughest pill to swallow, but it is quite possibly the only thing that will see me through these feelings of missing my home when I know I can’t be there.

This is not a medical journal - Hell, this is barely even a journal. If there’s anything to glean from this admission it’s that acknowledging hurt is the first step towards healing. In times where the spotlight is on identifying the virus, the matters of the heart still matter as well. As much as I don’t want to feel homesick, I am grateful to have a home to be sick for. I’ll see you again soon. Until then, my heart is with you - every last piece.

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