Homesickness Revisited

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Originally written October 16th 2007

I wrote this when I first moved out to Santa Cruz. I wanted to reshare (along wih all awesome comments I got). Not much more to say about it (except since then, I’ve gone from 767 friends to 1440 =P).

Nostalgia hits me like bumping a bruise I didn’t know I had. Do I want to remember? Why is it that I can only keep track of who I am now, while the memories of lifetimes past continue to clash with the current universe I’m in?

I want to go back. If I can’t go back, then I don’t want to remember. My high school memories have faded into a lingering few. I don’t remember so much of how things exactly were, only how I felt. Or maybe how things felt remain in my memories to remind me that I use to be someone else, a person from a different place and time, on a different set of adventures, when the world was beautiful, but in such a different way that I probably don’t understand anymore.

And I keep climbing this mountain, stopping occasionally to admire the view, but only for a short while before I have to traverse more of this mountain, never really gaining a full understanding of what it is I keep leaving behind. It doesn’t matter anyhow, because whatever it is that I’d left behind is no longer there anymore.

I see the peek of the mountain now, and the obstacles ahead overwhelm me. Still, I’ve managed to make it one step at a time this far. No one would’ve expected that this out-of-place girl would be so relentless in finding her place. Funny, that although I’m a much different person, I am still as out-of-place as I’d ever felt. I just have a greater understanding and appreciation of this mountain I’ve been exploring for my whole life. I’m doing the only thing I know how to do (over and over and over again, it seems). It just starts over, year after year, as people come and go.

I miss all the adventures, how those who were once strangers became family through an uncanny connection or circumstance. I miss the people, although it wasn’t until the end of undergraduate years that I’d acknowledge having friends. In my heart, I know that the people I hold dear existed years prior. I believe I met the most people dear to me in those four years from freshman to senior year. And then I took a little break, or maybe I’m just settling down.

Will there be no more adventures? Did I outgrow that part of my life? For those who know me, who knew me, and who I’ve yet to meet, I want you to meet the different people I’ve been. I want you to meet the different people I’ve known in the past lives I’ve lived. I loved them so much. I wanted to help them in a sort of naive but yet noble sort of way. I took people on adventures and showed them the world in a way they never saw before. Things weren’t always so effective. I bet I’ve made a ton of people uncomfortable, but that never stopped me. It was worth it just to be able to share the view with someone else, even if it was only for a little while. They changed my life in those same ways.

I miss you. All of you. All 767 friends on my facebook (+ those who graduated before facebook was available and whoever else). Some people I’m connected to only by a short passing by. For some people, a short passing by is all it took to share an adventure. Remembering is accompanied by a deep sadness. Most of you were part a life that I don’t know anymore. I miss what it feels like like be laugh with each of you and to exchange deep and philosophical ideas. If I could go back, I’d be able to love you more effectively and more than I could have back then. My heart is a lot stronger and more experienced. I’m not so scared anymore. If I could I would go back, but no one ever stays where they are in our memories.

Somewhere in cyberspace are the breadcrumbs to what remains of my memories, in letters and blogs that I’d pour my thoughts into, back when I had such trouble expressing them to people.

My childhood has receded into a fading figment, like a dream that I can’t remember. Why is it that at every stage I long for the innocence that I’ll never have again? All I can recall is that it was once sooo awesome…whatever *it* was. Interesting, that the only consistency in my childhood were my video games…and here I am now…lol, even if I don’t remember how I got here.

tenderly painful (like a tender spot on a bruise that never quite goes away, but you often forget about).

33 thoughts on “Homesickness Revisited

  1. from my inbox:

    How’s it going? It’s been a long time…

    Thanks for the note, you always struck me as a deep thinker which is really cool. So in Northern Cali huh? Those are my old stomping grounds… you should really enjoy yourself there. There’s no place quite like CA.

    Hope all is well and drop me a line when you get the chance.

  2. from my inbox:

    hey sherol,

    your writing has improved a lot over the years. grad school is kicking my ass right now. i’ve been working like 80 hour weeks and it’s killing me. i probably don’t need to work so much, but i’m taking two really time-consuming classes (robotics and vision) and trying to do some research, and applying for the nsf fellowship. i’m also pretty lonely here. how are you liking grad school? things were going fine here in austin until all the work started..

    and how is santa cruz taking to your weirdness? do you finally fit in? i bet not.

    and i mean that in the best of ways.

  3. from my inbox:

    Hey Sherol,

    I’m really glad you shared how you were feeling. Aside from your writing being really honest and lucid, I think you really captured what it’s like going through change. I really know how you’re feeling; I just moved to Florida for grad school and to be perfectly honest – I’m miserable. All my life I’ve been such a happy extrovert and after 2 months of grad school I feel like I have no idea who I am anymore. Like you said, all the memories I’ve used to define myself don’t seem so clear anymore.

    I still have the jazz CD you made :”Thompson Mix” ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. from PP:

    Sherol, I don’t know if I ever told you but I used to read your own blogs probably 2-3 years ago, I could really relate to a lot of the issues and questions you were facing. I didn’t have any answers then though and our friendship wasn’t much then.

    I’m glad though over the past year and during McNair that we got to hang out a little more. It seems rare to find young people here who ask the probing questions. Lately, I’ve been pondering whether suffering to a certain extent is necessary for real personal growth otherwise people don’t have any motivation. Or it could just be me trying to make sense of things happening.

    I can see you might feel a little out of place in California, but that’s just because you’ve spent so much time in delaware. New chapter, new people, new adventures, new hardships.

    Funny how being in a new place makes one question Who Am I? If I’m not the friends I hang out with, the labels and habits I fulfill, the expectations that others have? Best of meaning.

  5. from Aaron (pretending to be me, lol):

    Hey guys, it’s Sherol.

    Just wanted to say thanks for your input. I really relate to each one of you. No matter who you are, moving across the country is traumatic. Don’t over-analyse.

    One more comment about memory and nostalgia:
    Past memories that arise out of nowhere are like your brain coming across old events that once helped make you who you are today. People are shaped by experiences through-out life. Maybe we should look to the past as a series of events, some painful, some beautiful, some awkward, that define us in the present. Look towards the future and think about what can be the outcome tomorrow of what you do today.

    -Sherol

  6. haha….Aaron. wow, I’m impressed. I was about to make an observation on how people who’ve known me when I was younger might interpret things differently. The truth is, it’s not the painful memories that make remembering painful, its the happy memories. You come across a memory that reminds you of a person who made you laugh and it hurts b/c you know you might never laugh quite like that again. It’s like remembering something great and immediately realizing that its only a memory. I don’t remember much of the bad things; there are so many good things that I’m struggling to remember (or not remember) as it is.

    Aaron, I haven’t seen you since high school, so I appreciate your insights and sense of humor. I meant it when I said that you have a lasting impression in my memories. And it does hurt to know that I might never quite laugh like I did back when we were teenagers. Tenderly, as Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington may put it ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. from my inbox:

    Hi Sharol! I loved reading your post. It rang really true to me and made me reflect back on my own life and who I am and who I’ve met. I was glad to see your thoughts all laid out so clearly. Thank whichever Sherol was there the summer of 03 that showed a summer visiting student a wonderful adventure at UDel and introduced me to some great people, great sleepovers, and great adventures. I still have the AZN posse CD you made us. =)

    With warmest regards,

  8. From Chung:

    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 ๐Ÿ™‚

    God has a great plan for your future, not just for you to enjoy and make much of yourself, but for you to use all the gifts He blesses you with to make much of Him.. let me know if you’re ever down in southern california… and i’ll do my best to make sure that you don’t end up sleeping in your car..

  9. from my inbox (1 of 3):

    Ya know Sherol, reading your notes, it always makes me wonder how much there is to you that I never really knew. But how much there is, that most people never say, where we’re probably scarily alike. You know the Beatle’s song “In My Life” (i know you do, you were in the UDmarching band – crazy how i remember that after all these years) – that’s what your note reminds me of.

    You moved across the country to work on your PhD – congratulations and kudos for being so brave to do that (i know that I’d never have that in me). I moved home to work on my Master’s. It’s not a decision I regret in the least, but moving home after being away for 4 years makes you realize things about where you grew up, and the area I was so anxious to get away from. Yet, although I missed it while at UD, it’s not the same place, it never will be — and I hope that come May, I will successfully be able to say goodbye to my home for good this time.

    from my inbox (2 of 3):

    It’s funny how we muddle through the days, but when we look at back them, we remember the extremes — the times we laughed, the times we cried, and somehow being a stronger person for all of it. I don’t think I ever thanked you for being our Russell Fellow that year. I don’t know if you remember me crying to you about being homesick, but I do. and I remember there were good times too, random crazy freshman year fun. And the people who were part of that I’ll never forge.

    But parts of that lost little freshman still remain. I still don’t know who I am, though I know I’m learning every day. I still have no clue what I want to do when I grow up — but it’s ok, I’m not a grown up yet. And I still haven’t mastered remembering that there are bigger problems out there than my own little life.

    …continued

    from my inbox (3 of 3):

    I didn’t mean for this message to get so long — I haven’t talked to you in years and honestly, of all the people you’ve known I’ve probably played a minute role. But at the end of it all, thanks for making me think, and the best of luck to you as you try to figure out your way.

    end

  10. From Terry:

    Hey Sherol,

    I miss you on the East Coast. Delaware is a little more boring without you.

    I can read about your longing for the past, and hear about your pain on forgetting. But I wonder how much of the “goodness” of those times, and the innocence you refer to, were really present in those times, and how much was just in your heart?

    I can read of your longing for the past, but I don’t share it. As the years go faster and faster I become more comfortable with the who and what of “I”. Each year I get a little better at living the way I think I should live, and that feels like a real accomplishment.

    Hug,
    Terry

  11. From (another) Aaron:

    i think that i am lucky sometimes because i virtually just keep moving forward without looking back

    some people live in their memories and would never envy me this, but it works for me

    if sometime creates a quantum leap in my brain that resurfaces a memory not available to immediate recollection, i study it, but i never really sit around and try to remember

    im also kind of lucky that i dont feel pressured to keep moving “up the mountain”….if i were going to med school or something i probably would feel this way….but most of me feels like any real pushing of myself….any real forced strain for the sake of some faroff goal is pretty much over with…..ill just be not wealthy and lazy from here on out and will be forgotten after death….i actually kind of like that….that ill just fade out like i faded in

    dont forget to stop climbing the mountain sometimes and just walk around it at one altitued, looking at the vegetation and fauna

    i met you under a tree didnt i?

  12. from my inbox:

    sherol,

    – very nice writing, deep
    – very cool to share your thoughts
    – i think we all go through similar journeys in our lives
    – we all should share with one another more
    – our human experience would be more enriched
    – met you only a few times
    – didn’t really get to “know” know you back when
    – but you’re cool, always been quality
    – i think you pursuing your dreams and doing your phd is awesome
    – i wish for you the best
    – i don’t even know if you remember me, but i remember you
    – outside rso mtgs: like the one time on harrington beach at some small event where you came for the free food
    – hollas free food
    – be well
    – life gives you experiences you’re meant to experience
    – we’re all on different paths, but similar journeys
    – its fun and inspiring when they intercross
    – i hope you run into more fabulous people on the west coast as the east coast
    – i hope you bask in the CA sunsets/sunrises from time to time
    – have a wonderful day, always

  13. from my inbox:

    I appreciate that you think I had an impact on your life. I often think the same things you wrote in your thing. Sometimes I worry that life is going by to fast and that all of the great times I’ve had are slipping away to be lost forever. Sometimes I worry I’m just floating along not taking advantage of everything that is going on around me. I think it comes from being so busy in grad school. I feel like I am either not meeting enough new people or not keeping in touch with old people well enough. Undergrad is such a unique situation where so many similar people are so close together. It is just to hard to keep up with people when you can’t walk down the hall of a dorm and run into 10 of your friends.

    I think I’m moving to California. I had an interview in San Diego on Friday. I really liked it. I know you are no where near San Diego, but I’d mention it anyway. I also applied for a few jobs in the San Francisco area although I don’t think I will get any of them.

  14. from my inbox (1 of 3):

    Hey Sherol,

    That was quite beautiful. I think we’ve all had those feelings, but not many have turned them into words quite as nicely as you did.

    Something that I’ve observed as I get older is that part of maturing is carrying the weight of memories past, both good and bad. When we are children, we have little to no memories to base things on, so everything is fresh, new, and exciting. And as our bodies and minds mature during our teen years, we’re so overwhelmed by the new feelings and emotions we have that we always seem to feel very alive and energetic.

    …continued

    from my inbox (2 of 3):

    Now, as we enter the beginning of our adult lives, we carry those memories with us everywhere. We compare new feelings & experiences & people to old ones that are similar and find ourselves yearning for the old. While making comparisons are inevitable, I think we need to learn to overcome the feeling of “everything was better back whenever”, as it prevents us from enjoying life now.

    …continued

    from my inbox (3 of 3):

    Perhaps the most painful part is not having the people you knew around you anymore. It’s a sad truth that we all have to face: people will leave your life just as easily as they came in. Those who are with us today may very well be gone tomorrow.

    However, not unlike Katamari (http://youtube.com/watch?v=azhD59HR5U4), we collect pieces of those people as we go, which forms an amalgamation of who we are. As clichรฉ as it may be, everywhere we go, those who we have met are with us always.

    I’m with you, Sherol. And judging by the Sherol I knew in college, your Katamari ball is ridiculously large!

    end

  15. From Jennifer:

    Don’t feel sad about the happy memories because those will never change and you and the people you made them with will always remember them.
    I still appreciate when you and your friend were handing out water and Panera snacks that day in front of Kirkbride. You said you’d pray for my statistics grade and I actually passed. I don’t think I will ever forget that. I hope you find a great life in California. Perhaps I will visit you and the rest of my friends over there when I have the chance. Good luck and stay strong.

  16. from my inbox:

    Hey, Sherol,
    I remember when we first met, in the computer lab. We talked as if we knew each other for a long time..
    I know life seems to be tough, in a new setting and new phase. But I know you’ll be fine because you are a strong person. You wrote some things about regretting not acting a certain way or appreciating others. Remember, you’re one of my role models-my big sis! Don’t forget that. Remember that you were there to help me, be the shoulder to lean on. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. I hope you still remember to laugh. LIke, your butt really isn’t that big, or are you still going on random adventures?
    (We all have insecurities..Sometimes I feel like leaving New York because I don’t feel like I belong here. I miss being near friends, and the people I meet here aren’t always true friends. But..I will always remember the people who helped pull me through the hard times)
    I’m going to try to call you this weekend. I’ve been wanting to catch up.
    Take care!!

  17. From (a third) Aaron:

    in two weeks I’m going to Hockessin, DE for a church reunion; the church I went to for 22 years but haven’t visited in the last five years. Few of the old friends are still there. Someone will probably be sitting in my seat. Heck, even the building is vastly different. It’s silly to waste time whining about the past and how things were. They’ll never be that way again, so it’s nothing more than pleasant memories; something to make me smile when I close my eyes.

  18. from my inbox:

    awww sherol, i will do something extra crazy just for you, remember god lead you to cali for a reason whether it was to test you or for some other reason. do not regret going to cali, enjoy your memories but dont forget to make new ones. i expect to here crazy stroies

  19. From Tim:

    I feel like that person who said that they never look back. I don’t look at the past much, but it isn’t because I’m some “live in the moment” “the past is in the past” or “focus on the present and the possibilities of the future” kind of person. I never thought about the past and I thought it was to my merit that I could keep my focus on moving forward. But I consciously avoid the effort of mentally digging through the past. Bad or good. I think I’m just scared of the emotions that it will bring out.

    It seems as we get older we’re trying to avoid getting emotional as much as possible. And yet we wonder why life is so dull.

    I respect those that have the strength to turn around and consider everything they’ve been through, and remember where they need to go. I think young people avoid it too much, and only realize it’s worth when we realize all we have left is our past.

    Life will always be dull if you’re too scared to wear hats to church. =)

    You’re pretty.

  20. From Gena:

    sherol~

    its really good to hear from you. as you said, nostalgia is like a bruise, sometimes satisfying, sometime dangerous. Living in Boston, I’ve grown familiar with the feeling- it hits at unexpected moments and more often that id like to admit. Its been a really long time since i”v know whats up in your life– what are you doing in Northern CA, what are your plans, where are you going? When you have a moment, I’d love to hear about it.

    Thanks again for the note.

    Gena

  21. from my inbox:

    hahaha C!!!!!!! whattup!?

    I read your thoughts…they were quite enjoyable to read. Got me thinking a little…but I have to admit, I really am not the person to delve into deep thought. My response would be “if you’re living wondering about the past, you’re missing the present,” which I’m sure is not the response you’re looking for…in fact, it’s probably the opposite.

    I just moved away from all my friends in Delaware. I miss the college days all the time, but i immediately realize i have begun a new stage of my life, and have to go out and meet new people and build new relationships, or else i’m jsut going to die lonely! haha. it’s the truth though. it’s a lot easier to hang onto the past (your comfort zone) than to go forward and explore new ground, make new friends, open yourself up to people who are now strangers. that’s what i’m working on now..

    Great to hear from you! And for what it’s worth…the times you took me to “see the view” were times I won’t forget.

  22. from my inbox:

    Sherol,

    I do remember you, and our frequent discussions. I think that you met me at the wrong portion of my life. When I was a freshman, I thought I knew everything that was important. By the time I was a senior, I had no idea was going on. I actually refer to a part of my life as a “Sherol Chen” phase, because the kinds of things that you told me as a freshman were not something that I understood until later.

    At the time, I wasn’t really ready for night-long bus rides when you would talk amorphously about how you didn’t have any friends because of the way in which you viewed friendships. I didn’t really know what to think about anything like that, but I did know that people needed Jesus Christ.

    Then one day I realized that I didn’t have any friends either.

    I think of you as a good friend also, and I think that you made an important impact on my life. You are one of the few people from college that I am still curious how you are getting along and what you are doing.

  23. From Lara:

    Sherol,

    You are awesome. Hindsight always plays tricks on your mind and makes you wish you did things differently in the past. I wouldn’t have traded those high school adventures for anything, and even now wouldn’t trade the memories; you were a friend to all and opened many peoples eyes who couldn’t look beyond their own worlds. I miss playing the sax with you and hanging out after practice at kirkwood kitchen. We really were innocent back then, eh? Naive. It was good times though. I hope things are going well in CA; I’ve got free plane tickets, so let me know if you’ve got room. =)

    Lara

  24. From Vig:

    Hey its been a long time, I hope everything is going well.
    I really like what you wrote and hopefully when I get some more time I can respond to it. I don’t have the time right now but I do remember you as a deep person when you weren’t drawing porno gnomes on my dry erase board.

  25. From Anne:

    Amen! We need to talk about life when i arrive back home in approximately about a month! Crazy how fast time goes by. Thanks for the insights, I miss those classic Sherol rants, all the long tangential talks in random dorm corridors
    -Anne

  26. From Parag:

    i second the poop motion. don’t ever stop the adventures. also, i had a lucid dream that i flew to the top right corner of the map, got myself a golden chocobo, and kept on flying. jared says i’m a fruit but it’s nice to fly.

  27. from my inbox:

    Dear Sherol,
    You are dealing with some legit emotions and adapting to a new place. That is very good that you are honest about you miss or love from your previous experience. But I am happy to see that you have this new opportunity and to be in CA. The Lord is using you and GOd’s plan sometimes can be a challenge. We need to grow and mature and sometimes being in a more insular place or State like DE. I am not sure because life can get to confortable in DE. But when you move to a city or a bigger state then that takes some adjusting and a new start. It is a growing experience my friend.
    Best wishes to you and know that I have been through some of that too.
    Your buddy!

  28. From Jimmy:

    I think people don’t change into a different person, regardless of time and space. Instead, I think we are in an ever evolving process of becoming ourselves. Through ever new place we visit, new person we meet, new thought we encounter, a new layer of complexity is added to our character along with a self-reflective memory. And all these memory are kept in an antique book whose brittle pages, even the most perfunctory perusing would require nothing short of the uttermost tenderness as if the slightest mishandling would cause the jaded recollection of the past to crumple. Thus, we forbid ourselves from picking it up, although aware of its existence and values. But remember, the story is not over yet. We haven’t gotten to the end yet. So careful as you must be, pick up the book and keep writing.

  29. Sherol, I randomly stumbled on this blog post and I’m so glad I did. I feel and felt similar emotions when coming to Santa Cruz myself. And it’s so crazy for me to read this now, knowing the future-you from the blog… You have so many connections with people and, from what I can tell, your life is way fuller than it was. Your post restores my hope and reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

    Thanks for giving me perspective.

    1. @Leila, It’s sometimes hard to read something you write a long time ago, b/c it seems like reading the thoughts of someone I used to know…

      In a way, I still feel disconnected, at least, that was my initial thought from when I read your comment; however, as I thought about it, I realized that you are right… That “future me” is doing quite well… It feels like “future me” is about to reach the top of my current mountain, only to find myself at the base of another.. haha.

      The most important part up until now, or at least what’s made the biggest difference is knowing who I am, and that anyone who thought i needed to be more like everyone else was wrong.. haha.

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