The Curious Case of Transferential Homesickness

Homesickness must be a result of The Fall. How else did it become so ingrained in my psyche?

Welcome to Wichita, Kansas, All-America City

welcome to Wichita

I haven’t cried much over our move from St. Louis to Wichita. That is, not until we visited St. Louis two weeks ago.

I cried in church and at the hotel. I cried for the people we visited and the people we missed seeing this trip. I teared up at Ladue Nails, the zoo, and the Galleria.

When I lived in St. Louis, I couldn’t wait to leave. Whistle me Dixie and send me packing to North Carolina where I was raised. Where life is normal.

Now that I live in Wichita, I’m still homesick for The South. But I also long for the Lou, where life is normal.

“I’m homesick,” I said to my husband. “But I’m not sure for what!”

“You’re homesick for everything and everyone we’ve known,” he said.

Well, that about covers it.

Sometimes I think my husband could be happy living in a van down by the river. Or on a farm. Or in a city. Or a small town. Or just about anywhere else you can imagine. His parents gave him luggage for graduation if that tells you anything.

But I pine for a sense of place. I feel a need to belong somewhere.

Chicago downtown river view

my kind of town, Chicago is

I’ve belonged several somewheres on our tour de relocation, and now I miss them all. Even Chicago looks inviting.

If there ever comes a time when we leave Wichita to go home, where will that be exactly? Will I miss Kansas then the way I miss my former homes today?

Transference is a psychoanalytic concept meaning the inappropriate redirection of feelings from one relationship to another. Sigmund Freud came up with it, so take it with a grain of salt.

Transference occurs between people. I wonder if it can happen between a person and a place, too. Like Scarlett O’Hara and the red earth of Tara.

Those struck by locational transference struggle through life in a never-ending episode of homesickness. Missing, missing, always missing. A framework of loss their only constant.

Reframing is another therapy concept. It dares to find a different way to look at things.

Maybe the never-ending episode is really a pursuit of Home. The people and the familiar. The smells and seasons. The moments of contentment, love, and belonging taken for granted. The state of normal once found in a place and time.

We forge new relationships as life moves along—we have to. But this lingering homesickness accompanies us. It reminds us to embrace contentment where we find it because things may change tomorrow. It drives us on to recapture a place we left behind a long time ago. A place called Home.

They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that… from Hebrews 11:13-16 The Message

me and Steven Curtis Chapman at the airport in Nashville

me & Steven Curtis Chapman

Long Way Home is the latest from my favorite singer with three names Steven Curtis Chapman. Remember the time we were on the same plane to Nashville?

Have you ever been homesick? How did you move forward?

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12 Comments

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12 Responses to The Curious Case of Transferential Homesickness

  1. Oh, Aimee. Thank you for your honesty. I love, love the Hebrews verses you quoted. I think that just about sums it up. We’ll ache and long and have an intense desire to reconnect until we are finally Home. Forever. Have fun exploring Wichita.

    • Thank you, Christan. Isn’t that translation of the Scripture nice? I hadn’t read The Message version of it until writing this post. Beautiful, encouraging imagery.

      And I love how you capitalized Home in your comment! (Why didn’t I think of that?) In fact, I’m going to edit a bit right now to incorporate that in the post. The Home we desire deserves proper noun status!

  2. Elizabeth Whelan

    Uh oh! You did it, you “outed” the white elephant I have been trying to keep happy for six years now!! Now what do I do with all these thoughts I have been trying to ignore, disguise, rearrange, forget,…hide?

    I am hoping that you will write chapter two on this book so I don’t have to book a therapist appointment! You are so right with this post. The fact is, many times I have no idea where I am from anymore and I don’t exactly know where I would go if given the opportunity. I think I know that answer but too often in my life I have wanted something that was not exactly correct and then what? The entire subject is overwhelming at times. I had an out of body experience sitting at a Rangers game cheering for them!!! Come on now, Matthew is a Texan..was born here!

    Since I am pretty overbooked with summer activities and my head is spinning…oh, dear, sweet, Aimee, could you please nail this one down and get back to us? If anyone can get to the bottom of this….I am banking on you!!!!
    Elizabeth

    • “Many times I have no idea where I am from anymore and I don’t exactly know where I would go if give the opportunity.” Elizabeth, I’m living your life, struggling right there alongside you. Not sure I have THE answer or that there is one, but it helps to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve thought about you a lot, especially as we’ve wrestled with schooling decisions in our new city. We have to bank on God making a way, taking care of us, and never leaving us no matter where we are or what we face! These are such tough lessons in love and life…hmm, book title?

  3. Joy

    First of all, “In a van down by the river!”, I love that skit. Bah! But now seriously, homesickness is hard when it’s not necessarily a place you are sick for but the people that were there. I live in my hometown now, but have homesickness for Wyoming, where I lived for eight years of college (don’t laugh, I was undecided a lot). I miss those times and those people terribly, sometimes visiting is hard. But I would not change it or the direction my life turned for a second. Not for even one. :-)
    Unless… It was A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!! Bah!!!

    • Thanks, Joy. That’s one of our house’s favorite SNL skits. Love and miss Chris Farley. We were living in Chicago when he died :(

      I agree with your comment. It’s not that I would change what’s happened, but man, why does it have to be so sad and hard sometimes?

      PS: If you ever find yourself at the point of living in a van down by the river, please call me before moving into the Odyssey. I’ll do the same if I get to that point, agreed?

  4. What is similarly odd, I moved across the globe, and I wasn’t homesick. For about a year. I haven’t gone back to Hungary yet (too much of a financial burden right now), but I know already that it will be a dual experience for me. I miss so many things, so many things that I can’t recreate in California: locations, childhood friends, passing by my old school, the “good luck” plaque commemorating the first fencing school in Hungary that I made a habit of touching before tests in high school. But at the same time, my California roots run almost as deep now. I have a lot of family here that I love with all my heart, all my “adult” friends, a commitment for the Central Valley that I never felt about Budapest… it’s really odd how different geographical areas bring out different ideas in one’s personality.
    I think being homesick is really nothing else than trying to still feed from the roots you had to tear off of until you grow your new ones. And after that, revisiting the old ones will always be a little bittersweet – it’s good to see the same turf again, but without the careful tending of day-to-day connections, it just won’t be the same.

    • So much wisdom, Nusy. Are you sure you’re still in your 20s? I can relate to your description of the “dual experience.” And I’ve noticed the feelings seem to change and shift as years past. You’d think the feelings of loss would lessen with the years, but sometimes they seem to intensify. Depends a lot on what’s happening in your present day life and place, I think. Change is hard.

  5. Ha! I didn’t move on. I moved home. I ain’t never leavin’ the Lou (unless Bob becomes a screenwriter)! LOL

    • Laura, good point. A lot of people do that. Some of my best friends growing up left home for a short period of time (or never at all) and now live in the same communities we did when we were young. My siblings still live in the same state, and my husband’s parents and brothers all still live in the same town! We’re the only ones who moved away. Black sheep, I guess :)

  6. Very thoughtful and true post. When I am in China I am very rarely “place” sick – but I’m “people” sick. But when I go back to Michigan or Chicago I will cry – the smallest thing can set me off, goodbyes are painful and my mood will vary. This too shall pass and we should be grateful that we’ve had so many “Homes.”