Most days, I go about my daily life without a problem:
Wake up, go to work, keep the house tidy, spend time with my family, and maybe have some time to work on some crafts. Just another day in Iowa.
Other times, nostalgia shows up uninvited and derails my life for a few days. It makes me question my choices, my location, my job, the distance from my parents and sisters, even how my Puerto Rican culture is non-existent in my day to day life. To be honest, it’s a tough balancing act, but I try to make the most of it.
The truth is, I love my life.
The family I’ve made here is my everything and I would do anything for them. I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so Iowa’s slow pace fits me just right. The calm atmosphere provides me with a sense of peace.
But, when homesickness rears its head, nothing makes sense. The only things that keeps me grounded are my husband and daughter. Other than that, I feel like a stranger in this life. I wish I could go to the beach when I have a couple of spare hours in the afternoo– the salty ocean water and coarse sand on my toes, not murky lake water and its boggy bottom. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could go grab a quick bite and drink while listening to live salsa music? I would give anything to have some fresh seafood and say “¡buen provecho!” (bon appetit) to the stranger sitting next to us. I would give anything to feel that sense of belonging no matter where I go.
It’s definitely harder when my country is going through tough times (ie the Hurricane Maria aftermath or the protests leading to the governor resigning and the uncertainty they face now), or when they are celebrating as a nation (ie Olympic triumphs, Miss Universe contests or when the governor finally resigned).
I miss not being able to be there with them in solidarity. To be honest, a lot of people around me don’t even know what’s going on in my small island, so I’m not surrounded by mutual support.
It’s especially tough when knowing that my daughter won’t grow up with the same traditions I experienced.
She won’t know what it is to celebrate every family member’s birthday (aunt, uncles, cousins, you name it!) even if it’s on a weeknight. She won’t know what it is to play “tira y tapate”, to go to a local bakery for a loaf of pan sobao (sweet bread) as a Sunday night ritual, or to get a big plate of rice and beans for lunch from a local cafeteria. My daughter might not dance to the music even without a dance floor, and she won’t pick up some quenepas from the cart on the side of the road on her way to the beach. She won’t know what it is to cry your heart out and lose your voice when Salimos de Aquí comes on, to know there’s always space to get together and celebrate even in tough times.
This homesickness comes with a side of depression and I’m fully aware of that.
It’s what helps me proactively work to get out of it. I think of all the blessings I have to keep in my mind why I’m here, what I have and what I want my future to be like. No matter what, a piece of me will always feel like this is not home. Half of my heart will always belong to my little island in the Caribbean.
Isn’t it true for anybody who has moved from their childhood home?
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