It’s inevitable. Every season around this time of year I find myself coming down with a sickness; one that’s not easy to cure and can often span for months at a time. There’s no magic pill, thick syrup or doctors order that can keep this virus at bay - however, a busy schedule, positive thinking and an active social life can get me through some of the toughest days.
Homesickness is not an easy battle to fight. It can pop up out of nowhere and ruin a week, day or even month. It’s relentless and ever present. It’s hard to control and unfortunately, can sometimes affect performance in the workplace.
Last week I caught a serious bout of this undesirable disease and am still trying to escape from its grasp. It’s tough being away from the people you love for long periods of time. Though the Internet helps to keep in touch with home, it still doesn’t quite cut it. Four years into my chosen profession and this is the aspect I struggle with most. It never gets easier.
As an extremely social person, I love experiencing new places, meeting new people and having meaningful conversations. I’ve been known to go out with a group of friends, only for them to find me talking about life with some random individual in the corner of a bar. I love people. I like hearing their stories. I thrive off of social situations – which is why Europe can sometimes be a difficult transition. Though I’ve been blessed with enviable circumstances abroad thus far, this season has been somewhat of a difficult adjustment. The language, location, size of city and lack of tourism in Ferrol are obstacles. Of course when living abroad, I’m a guest and am the one who needs to assimilate. However, in my first 3 years I had always managed to find a core group of English speaking individuals to make the experience more enjoyable. I found them through local embassies, universities, on other professional teams in the city (basketball, volleyball, soccer) and even through facebook! These people kept me busy, close to home, in high spirits and helped fulfilled my social hunger pains. For the most part, my homesickness was kept at bay and I was happy. This year, these past ideas have not proved successful. There are no English speaking embassies in the area, the university does not have an exchange program and we don’t have another professional sports team in the city with English speaking imports. Thus, I’m on somewhat of an island. For some players this isn’t a problem, as they can keep themselves occupied in their tiny apartments with TV, the Internet and a book. But for me, that’s torture. I like living in my new city/country. I can’t stay cooped up in an apartment all day, everyday and not explore, experience and enjoy the foreign culture. I want to see what my new environment is all about, while meeting new people. I’ve ventured out in Ferrol numerous times with these ideas in mind, but it’s never as fun when you’re doing it alone.
This is not to say my teammates aren’t nice people – because they are. They have been very friendly, but through no fault of their own, their English is very limited. Most go to school and are busy living their own lives.
Prior to this year I was remarkably lucky to have been paired with import teammates who were outgoing and shared similar interests. In fact, I became very close with all 3 and to this day still keep in touch with each of them. I talk to Lizanne (Finland) monthly and am in constant touch with Casey (Portugal) and Jordan (Luxembourg) - both of which have become very close friends. This year it’s…different. I don’t have a partner in crime. I’m on my own. My American keeps to herself and though my Bosnian teammate is a very nice girl (we meet for coffee daily), she’s European and can speak 6 languages; enabling her to communicate and associate with others around the city. Unfortunately, my French won’t get me quite that far in Spain.
I love where basketball has taken me and the high level I'm playing at this year is a confidence builder. How can I complain when I get paid to travel Europe while playing the sport I love? Nevertheless, as I grow older I'm realizing that basketball is a part of who I am and does not define me. Not having the social interaction I want and need this season has me realizing how important my family and friends are; people I will never take for granted.
Things will get better. They always do. I’m just waiting for the Robin to my Batman to show up…
Sidenote: First league game Saturday. Can’t wait to lace up the sneakers and play for real!