The first time I went away from home anywhere other than to my grandmothers’ for
AEA Week Spring Break was in the summer after fifth grade. My church friend Donna and I went to GA (Girls in Action) camp, about two hours from home, for a week.
I don’t recall being homesick at all. I remember bunk beds and swimming, paddle boats and vespers, but homesick wasn’t something that happened to me on that trip.
A few years later, the summer before I started high school, I went to Acteens camp (the teenage version of GA camp), and I
hated strongly disliked it. Maybe it was my teenage hormones or teenage attitude or the fact that it was the hottest summer I’d ever experienced and the camp swimming pool was closed. Whatever it was, it wasn’t near as fun as I remembered camp being a few years earlier.
I wanted to go home.
I had no appetite when it was meal time and then I was hungry when it wasn’t. I dreaded activities and counted the hours til bed time because going to sleep was the only thing that seemed to bring me closer to the next day and ultimately closer to the end of the week and closer to going home.
I survived, and by the second to last day of camp was actually enjoying myself … a little.
Fast forward three more summers — the summer before my senior year of high school — and I was chosen to represent my high school at Alabama Girls State. I had long since forgotten the extreme homesickness from a few years before. Certainly at age 16 and as a high school senior I wouldn’t experience the same kind of desire for home?
Well, I did. And so did my roommate, so at least I wasn’t alone. Just like at Acteens camp, I had loss of appetite and counted the hours til the day was done just so I could get through to the next day and count the hours again. I was surviving, just getting through to the next thing and then the next thing and then the next, knowing that each “thing” was getting me one step closer to the comforts of home.
My experience with grief has felt kinda like an extended period of being homesick. Like those camps, I just want it to be over. I just wanna go “home,” in this case “home” being the place that was comfortable before all this hurt and stress and sadness came along. On a much larger scale, the way I handled camp is how I now approach life, as a series of things to be done, each thing bringing me closer to “home.” The major difference is there’s no home to go back to. I can’t go back to a comfortable place before the hurt. I can only go forward and forge a new comfortable place, a place that comes after the hurt.
There are many, many times that I still just want it to all go away. I want to wake up and it all have been a bad dream. I still want to go home. But I keep going and keep learning and try my best to keep emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically focused on what’s ahead, not what’s behind.
“…One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal …” Philippians 3:13b-14a