Last summer, I graduated from the University of Oregon, and shortly thereafter moved 2,700 miles across the country to Philadelphia. Although I have never had trouble making friends, Philadelphians have proven difficult in this regard. Around one month in, I was sad. I missed home.
I went on YouTube and surfed over to the University of Oregon channel (it was football season, so I was probably looking for a highlight reel). I came upon this video:
I instantly started crying. How could I not? I had not only moved away from one of the most magical places I had ever lived, leaving behind my best friends, but I had also graduated from college and started my “real life.” This promotional video speaks to incoming freshman. “Now’s the time to be bold,” the narrator says. “To explore. To evolve.” By the standards of societal touchstones, I had been bold. I had explored. I had evolved.
In the following weeks, I watched it over and over, and cried every time. And then I decided to just listen to the song in the video, “Welcome Home” by Radical Face (also featured in the movie The Vicious Kind with Serving Tea To Friends hottie/obsession Adam Scott):
This, unsurprisingly, made me cry twice as hard. This video, the song, it’s all about being homesick. And I was nothing if not homesick.
So I watched this video over and over again, too. And I cried and cried.
Until one day, I stopped.
The song came on internet radio during work. I wasn’t paying attention, probably designing a flyer. I noticed myself singing along—I had clearly learned all the lyrics at this point—and I wasn’t crying. I had listened to it so many times that I was desensitized. The melody had become familiar, the wind chimes at the beginning comforting instead of distressing.
I have found that this also works with painful memories. The time your boyfriend dumped you for his coworker. That sinking feeling of the last conversation you have with your best friend before they move away. Your grandmother’s funeral. The best way I’ve found to get over painful thoughts is not to put them out of my head—that just causes them to resurge when I least expect them. If I make a conscious effort to think about what’s plaguing me, to talk to my peers about it, to write it down, to get it out and keep getting it out, the thoughts become less piercing and the pain less concentrated. By the time I’ve said it out loud five times, it’s the universe’s problem to deal with. Not mine.
Do keep in mind, though, that I’m no psychologist. I don’t know if it’s good for me to play these things over and over again in my head, but I do know that it works for me. At very least, it gives me perspective. At most, I end up feeling completely differently about the situation, which can be good.
For an example, we can turn to the videos I was watching and the reasons I was watching them—homesickness and shock at being done with college. Watching these videos over and over again made me realize that I didn’t need to be an incoming freshman to own and be proud of my unconventionality and my exception. I can own it and be proud of it myself, because that’s what college taught me to do. And when I am feeling homesick, or stressed, I say to myself, “This is real. This is now. This is how you change everything.”
By being able to overcome painful memories and use them to better myself, I am, indeed, changing everything. I am creating. I am contributing. I am learning. And most of all, I belong. I feel more connected to my peers. I feel more engaged in my surroundings. I am still homesick, but less so. This tactic works for me. And it is all our own unique struggles to discover what works for us. Do keep in mind, though, that it’s not impossible. The sad memories do fade. In the words of Mates of State, “Everything’s gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better.”
And if we can hope for that, then things aren’t all that bad after all.
P.S. The title of this post is from this song: