Homesickness: an Ode to a City


During a recent day-trip into Boston, I was struck by how keenly homesick I felt for the city: the streets lined with brownstone row houses, the screeching start and stop of the MBTA subway cars, the sidewalks filled with young-professionals walking at a clip, the waterfront breeze inherent to a coastal city, and the abundance of coffee shops, one on every corner.  Even as I sat amidst it all, I felt an overwhelming longing for it — a longing to grab the city and hang on to it, to have it as a part of my everyday again, to be living it with regularity, not observing it from the stance of a visiting outsider. 

What was this homesickness?  Why did I feel such sadness and longing for Boston when I simultaneously feel so content in my new city, Providence? 

A paradox of human life is that you can feel two conflicting emotions at the same time.  I can be devastated that I didn’t get a new assignment at work, and relieved that I won’t have to fit it into my schedule.  I can be excited thinking about the summer’s upcoming trips, while also wishing that these ordinary April days would go by more slowly.  I can feel at home and content and Providence, and miss Boston fiercely. 

Of course I miss Boston.  With its beautiful architecture, thriving cultural scene, magnificently operating public transportation system, lively history, and splendiferous array of food, drink, coffee and dessert options, it’s my city-soulmate. 

What’s more, Boston is saturated with personal history and meaning.  Boston is the first city I lived in as an adult.  It’s where I paid my inaugural rent check to the landlord of a dilapidated old duplex.  It’s where I found a vibrant community of fellow seekers and friends in the hallowed walls of Harvard Divinity School. It’s where I had my first job: where I waited for the 87 bus day in and day out to get me there, where I learned through mentorship and experience, and where I celebrated Friday nights with friends around happy hour pizza and pitchers of PBR.  It’s where I spent my first year of marriage: where we went on the spontaneous date nights of a childless couple, where we spent lazy Saturday mornings taking winding walks and slowly sipping coffee, and where we sought out local treasures to show visiting friends and family members. 

I dove into Boston, soaking up my experiences in it and falling in love…and because I loved it, I miss it.  Love inevitably leads to a sense of loss in this ephemeral life, when experiences end, friends move way, favorite shops close their doors, and moving trucks are packed.

As painful as loss — this time in the shape of homesickness — may be, I don’t for a second regret living into and falling in love with Boston. The four years I spent there were years of exuberance, learning, joy and growth.  My goal is to live into Providence in such a way that when I eventually move, I’m left with a deep and poignant sense of homesickness.