After spending more than two years with my parents in lockdown, I moved out of my nest to live an independent life. While living on my own has always been my dream, it suddenly became one of the most difficult decisions to make. In spite of the initial turbulent relationship with my parents, it became the strongest bond after lockdown. We bonded partly because of my mental health issue and partly because I was spending more time with them. We started understanding each other better and held on to each other as the biggest support system. Today, I can’t spend a day without video calling my parents almost every hour. Hence, the homesickness in COVID-19 was much more intense.
Honestly, I never thought I will get the time to stay with my parents for two long years after having stepped out of the house for my studies. It is an old saying that once kids step out of the house, they return only as guests. It is obvious because after completing education come other responsibilities like job, marriage and other responsibilities. The feeling of ‘being at home’ becomes yet another phrase eventually.
But because of the unexpected pandemic, every one of us got this opportunity to extend the feeling momentarily. We got to spend more time with our parents as adults and discuss issues we never did as children. Living with parents as an adult is a completely different experience than living with them as a child. As an adult, you become a partner of your parents while as kids you were dependent on them. Our relationship dynamics change enough for a simple hug from parents to become tear-jerkers.
Speaking from my experience, staying with my parents, initially, was difficult. We had conflicts because of my choices that were not ‘normal’. But as time passed by, my parents started accepting my choices and they unlearnt the conditioned views to accommodate my choices. It is because of their support that I am able to deal with my mental health issues while living on my own.
Nitali Kumari, an MBBS student at KPC college of Kolkata, spent more than a year with her parents in Bihar. Initially, she had issues with them but the evening carom board games and family time before bed resolved issues between them which also brought positive changes in their relationship. But after moving back to her sated hostel with irregular availability of food, she started missing her parents more than ever.
“Lockdown struck a few months after I joined college which had not given me enough time to make peace with the unusual environment of my hostel before I returned home. It became really difficult to adjust to the hostel life; I missed the food, the family time replete with jokes and childhood stories and much more,” she said. “I missed my mother’s embrace around me while I went to bed the most. It felt cold.”
Adding to this, Akash Kumar, a Computer Science Engineering student in Hubli of Karnataka says, “I spent an entire semester at home. When I got admission to the college, I didn’t even get to visit my college as the semester began online itself. I felt more happy and relaxed studying online compared to today when I have to walk from classroom to hostel the entire day. Usually, colleges offer less than a month’s holiday. But pandemic allowed me to stay at home for two years. So it is natural that I miss my parents more than ever. Not that I haven’t stayed on my own before, but this time was different.”
Homesickness is not something new. Every one of us feels homesick at some point of time in life. But the homesickness induced due to COVID-19 lockdown was different. COVID-19 lockdown allowed us to stay together with our families for a long span of time.
With no work or school, everyone found ways to love and connect with their family members better. Families became each other’s comfort and courage to walk through the difficult times of the pandemic. This connection was stronger than any other bond for many people. And leaving that behind was certainly not easy.
Kirti, a BALLB student of Symbiosis Law School also agrees with the fact that during the lockdown, her relationship with her parents and other family members improved drastically. She felt more at home and comfortable with her parents than she was at her flat in Noida.
“I never wanted to come back. Everything became approachable from home, be it studies or work. The fear of boarding a bus alone, living in a city alone started haunting me again. But just because my friends and colleagues were moving back and things were opening slowly, I had to muster the courage to leave my nest,” says Kirti. “I started feeling as if I will be left behind in my career if I don’t step out.”
It is a known fact that COVID-19 caused mental health issues among many people. But homesickness is rarely considered as a part of it. It is often sidelined as something that is normal. But it is not. Homesickness can affect an individual in many ways. It can distract their concentration on work, and make them feel lonely which is enough to trigger any sort of hidden mental health issues.
So we need to draw our attention to the voices of many who feel lonely after leaving their nests post-pandemic. Just because their problem is not so visible doesn’t mean COVID-19 didn’t affect them.
The views expressed are the author’s own.