The above is one of my favorite quotes from Farscape. For the life of me, I don’t know why I like it so much. There’s nothing super memorable or moving about the scene. In it, Crichton tries to explain away his willingness to work with his mortal enemy based on the fact that his species looks fairly human. Therefore talking to Crais is the closest he’s going to get to “guy time” with another human male: “I look at you, and I get homesick.”
But I think it is an apt description of the way familiarity, no matter how vague, can evoke the feelings of home. I found this with one of my coworkers who we will call, for purposes of this blog, M. M is from South Georgia. She has a heavy southern drawl and tales about her father’s backyard wine making operation and her grandmother taking gin soaked raisins for her arthritis. I’m not from anywhere near South Georgia. I’m not even from the Deep South. But I was raised by a Texan and a woman from South Louisiana. My mother also recommends gin soaked raisins for arthritis—and she’s a nurse! From a family standpoint I tend to think I’m as Southern as they come. Not Tennessee Williams Southern and not Jeff Foxworthy Southern, but something else entirely that you don’t see on television. And sometimes, I talk to M, and I get homesick.
Because now I live in the Midwest. And there are wonderful things about the Midwest, but it’s different. Compared to what I’m used to people here seem standoffish. No one ever smiles if they pass you on the street. The food is bland (and racism is at a level I’ve never witnessed before, but that’s another matter). My program seems to be full of people from the Midwest and the Northern Midwest, which is another region entirely, but just as foreign. I love most of my colleagues, but sometimes I feel like we speak a different language. We also have very different experiences (except for my one friend from Detroit who is the only other person I’ve ever met who was taught to kick out a tail light in elementary school. That’s another story too.)
M and I started grad school at the same time, so our first year here we had a lot of classes together. And since we both took the bus to campus we tended to get to class early, and we had a lot of time to talk. Later we were assigned to teach the same class, wound up with overlapping office hours, and had a lot more time to talk. M is an amazing person to begin with and I like to think we’d have been friends without the shared experience of being southerners, but it’s certainly helped. It’s like when I lived in Peru—I speak Spanish just fine. I would and could go entire days without speaking a single word of English. But sometimes I would be sitting in a restaurant or an airplane and hear someone next to me speak English, and it was so nice to be able to speak English for just a few minutes. That’s how it is talking to someone “from home” when you’re in a foreign land. That’s why it’s always been so refreshing talking with M when one of us says something about our family and then adds, “Well you know…” Because I do know. It’s nice to know when M says, “Well you know what the expectations are, being a Southern daughter,” that I know and she knows and someone gets where I’m coming from. All the good and bad that goes along with it.
M has just received an amazing job opportunity. One that fits perfectly with her experience and expectations and will allow her to get paid while doing her dissertation research. Unfortunately this means she’s moving this Summer. I’m thrilled for her. And on some level I’m a little sad for me. As it so happens, a lot of my friends are moving this Summer and next year will be different for me in a lot of ways. But somehow that little self absorbed part of me is extra sad about M leaving, because from now on I know when I get homesick I’ll be homesick alone.