Let it be Hard: Homesickness

Katie Kleinjung Let it be hard, Real Messy Missions 3 Comments

During this month, I’m starting a series called Let it be Hard. We’ll talk about all sorts of things that I think would be a lot easier, less frustrating and much more fruitful if we just stopped trying to make them not be hard.

Being a missionary has lent itself to a ton of new conversations. A lot of those conversations, especially because we’re in our first year of missions, are centered around culture shock or culture transition.

A huge component of culture anything is homesickness.

Being homesick means something different for everyone and can look like a lot of different things. For me, being homesick isn’t something that has yet to fully go away. It’s always kinda there, lingering in the back of the room. Sometimes it’s the guest speaker, sometimes it’s just an audience member, but so far, it’s always around.

Homesickness for me also isn’t the opposite of happiness of the opposite of liking Thailand. In fact, I am learning to love Thailand very much and appreciate a ton about it and yet I still miss home.

It’s just that, it’s missing home. Home, for me, and again, it’s unique to everyone, is about where things are natural and I feel like I fit. In America, things are natural and I feel like I fit. The way I think, speak, move, gesture, drive are all more natural in America, generally. Things feel easier there. And I miss that. Thus, homesickness.

Homesickness ebbs and flows. The days when things are particularly hard, I can be tempted to blame the hard things on me not being from Thailand. Sometimes that’s totally true. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes things are just hard no matter. No matter location or language or side of the road being driven on.

Because we’re “new” here, people ask a lot how we’re doing with culture shock. I love that people ask. Most people have been through it so they get it and they’re genuinly concerned about us being well in the process.

While I feel like we’re at an okay place with culture shock, meaning, we like it here and don’t want to burn it down right now, I’m still homesick. It’s seems so counterintuative that when I say things like, “We’re doing well, I think. Like we’re getting used to things and enjoying some things we didn’t like before.” and people follow it up with, “So you’re not homesick anymore?”, I feel stuck.

I feel stuck because saying that I’m not homesick is a lie but their sentiment isn’t what I’m not agreeing with.

I can be adjusting and appreciating and even loving Thailand and still miss home.

And the more people we meet and talk to and the more stories we learn, the more I think we need to just acknowledge that we’re homesick. It’s okay. It’s normal and natural and how we’re made. 

There’s a difference between wanting to go home and missing things and people and aspects of home. And to be honest, I’m not sure this missing-pangs and deep aches when I catch a whiff of something burning that brings me to a bonfire a dusk, sipping something warm, will go away anytime soon. Like, anytime in the next five to ten years.

And I think that’s okay.

And the ease of home, the ease of fitting and thinking and looking and working in a current of sameness that comes from your home-country, is only half the equation. The other half is comprised of our greatest treasures: family and friends.

In the short seven months we’ve been here, we’ve missed:

An adoption meeting.

Not the same. Photo from Emily Ockwig.

Photo from Emily Ockwig.

Friends saying goodbye to their first born dog-baby.

These three. Photo curtesy of Everbranch Photography.

These three. Photo curtesy of Everbranch Photography.

This one becoming a Master.

 Photo from Erica Carlson.

Photo from Erica Carlson.

My mom having a massive back surgery.

All those metal pieces, not there originally.

All those metal pieces, not there originally.

Four weddings (two of which Stephen was asked to officiate), two funerals, friends moving home, babies being born and houses being sold. All of which are big things, but they don’t compare to the everyday, normal life we’re missing. The coffee and the watching kids grow and change and the dinners while kids scream.

All that makes us homesick too.

And you know what? People are going to keep getting married. Babies will be born and others will say goodbye until Heaven. Jobs will be gotten and lost, home bought, big life decisions made, all while we aren’t there. And when all those things happen, chances are we will feel those pangs of missing home. Of missing being where our story started and where the majority of those we love are still living theirs.

So, as we battle culture shock or culture transition or whatever it’s called, I’m not going to try and not miss home. It’s pointless and will just make me frustrated and spend all my emotional energy trying to change something I cannot.

It’s going to be hard. It may not always break my heart and it doesn’t have to be consuming or even crippling, but it will be hard. Tender to the touch at times, and others, not as much.

And I think it should be. This is my sacrifice. We have chosen to live now as the foreigner so others may be known and brought near to God. So I’m okay with some discomfort. Only I get to give this to God and (most days) that’s the perspective I maintain.

We have a couple friends moving here in less than two weeks. When they’re homesick and missing people and wishing they knew how things worked and wanted to understand how the city is laid out and what that one weird hand gesture everyone keeps doing means, I’m just going to nod empathetically and say ‘Yes.’. I’m not going to try and make it not hard.

I’ll let it be hard.

Because the amazing thing has been, for me, not fighting the pain, and even leaning into it, has made it much better. Allowing it to be in the light and acknowledging it somehow takes away the sharpness of it.

Somethings, like labor, are just hard. Unless you’re a magic unicorn, it hurts. And saying it doesn’t hurt or trying to think it doesn’t hurt doesn’t actually take away any pain. 

Let the hard things be hard.

As my favorite yogi Stephanie Moors  says, “It’s not awesome and it’s okay.”

It’s okay that it’s hard. It’s okay.

Posted by Katie

Posted by Katie

Comments 3

  1. Pingback: Real Messy Missions, Take 2 | The Kleinjungs

  2. Hi Katie! Thank you so much for writing this post! I am a missionary (along with my husband) and you explained “homesickness” to the ‘tee’. I really loved what you wrote here :
    “There’s a difference between wanting to go home and missing things and people and aspects of home. ”
    Wow. That’s perfect.
    Thanks again. Cause, I was kinda feeling a little homesick (and I have been here for 6 years). It’s nice to know that you are not the only one.

    1. Post

      Hey Noelle! Thank you so much. It’s good to know I’m headed in the right direction then by not fighting it the way I used to, because we want to be like you guys: long on the field. Thank you for being honest about experiencing homesickness…it’s good for new missionaries like us to hear and see. It shows us we can do this and we don’t have to live up to some unreachable/unreasonable goal. XO

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