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Homesick For Peanut Butter

Everyone has been homesick at one time or another in their lives. Whether it be at a slumber party walking distance from your house, a couple months into college when you finally get just how nostalgic doing your own laundry can be, or maybe you moved out a decade ago and you’re missing Mom’s pancakes from when you were twelve extra hard that day. It happens. I know I might be a little biased, but I think homesickness when you’re in another country might be the absolute worst though.

I remember telling Will, my boyfriend, after the first or second week here that at some point I was going to breakdown ugly crying in homesickness and he needed to be prepared. It actually felt like it was never going to come there for a little bit. I think it took more than a month before I kind of lost it. I sobbed you guys. Like full on heart wrenching sobs. And you want to know what triggered it? Peanut butter.

I came over here with a few nonperishables just to get me started so I wouldn’t have to figure out where a grocery store was in the first twenty four hours off the plane. One of the things I brought was a jar of peanut butter. After a little while, I ran out of peanut butter and didn’t think much of it. I put it on my grocery list and moved on. When I finally got time to go grocery shopping, I couldn’t find peanut butter anywhere. I checked the two big, main shops in St. Gallen and it was nowhere to be found. I went back a couple times and looked again and started getting frustrated because I figured I was being blind and missing it. I mentioned it offhandedly to my host family during dinner one night and my host mom goes “Peanut butter? I don’t think peanut butter exists here. I don’t think barely any Swiss would even know what it is if you asked.” And in that moment I became obsessed with peanut butter.

My clothes don’t smell like my house anymore, I ran out of my American-made shampoo already, the nail polish I put on the last week I was home has long since chipped off. I slowly realized all of these things at once as I sat in my flat after dinner thinking about how badly I needed a jar of  peanut butter and how only a jar of peanut butter could make me happy at this point. It was the one thing I had with me that tasted like home and I squandered it dammit. About thirty seconds later I sent Will a text along the lines of “it’s happening. i’m breaking down. help.”

Just like that, I missed everyone and everything. I missed my mom and dad. I missed Matthew (the little brother). I missed my friends. I missed my car. I missed Taco Bell. I missed coffee makers that make sense. I missed my familiar laundry detergent smell. I missed my cat. I missed showers with curtains. I missed getting to tell my friends good night when it’s actually night and not when I’m making breakfast. I missed angry Wal Mart employees at three a.m. I missed toilets that flush with handles instead of buttons. When I say I missed everything, I mean I missed everything.

Then missing turned into guilt. Maybe I should’ve gone back to school instead. Wouldn’t that have been more beneficial to me and my future anyway? And what about Matthew? He’s had a really tough year and I just up and ran off to another country. I am such a crappy sister. Will and I just started dating, this is completely unfair to him. I’m a main benefactor to the Richmond Road Taco Bell and they’re probably going to shut down without my financial support. Ugh, how selfish can I be?!

All of these things, the relevant and completely irrelevant, were boomeranging around inside my brain. God bless William because he broke out his very best consoling to calm me down from the absolute conniption I was having. I did eventually stop crying but I didn’t get over being homesick.

Three days later, I was still stuck in this mindset of missing and wanting to go home immediately. I was walking through the closet-sized corner store in my village with the most pathetically sullen look on my face when I dropped the bag of pasta I was holding. I sighed a sigh that could’ve wilted sunflowers and bent down to pick it up. As I was all but melting into the floor, this lone two and a half inch tall glass jar on the very bottom shelf caught my eye. It was the only one of its kind with a blue label that had “Erdnuss Somethingorother” printed across the side. Erdnuss…peanut…HOLY COW IT’S PEANUT BUTTER! I snatched that thing off the shelf like it was going to disappear in front of my eyes, ran to the cash register, and left my bag of pasta lying on the floor in the condiments aisle. I speed walked back to my flat and inhaled four peanut butter and honey sandwiches before I even thought to take off my coat.

The discovery of the only jar of peanut butter in all of Switzerland didn’t completely dissipate my homesickness but with every sandwich I ate, my Donnie Darko-esque somber and absurd guilt started to fade…

PB&H #1: I am getting more teaching education out of working day in and day out alongside real teachers and having to come up with and execute lesson plans all on my own than I would be taking my third *Brit Lit class and spending twenty pages analyzing why Chaucer’s protagonist wore a purple coat instead of a blue coat.

PB&H #2: Matthew and Will know that I love them, that I would do anything for them, and that I am always here for them. They support me and they support the fact that, at least for now, I need to be able to be here for them from 5,000 miles away.

PB&H #3: Taco Bell may suffer a little bit but TC and TAMUT are a few blocks away and the early twenties crowd with 8 a.m. classes and the undeniable hangover to match will keep them in business until I get back.

PB&H #4: Alright Ruth, ration the peanut butter, conserve the peanut butter, please do not throw up.

Being homesick sucks. And the random things that trigger being homesick can suck too. But don’t mistake homesickness for something bad. If I hadn’t gotten homesick, I wouldn’t have recommitted myself to my decision to come here. I wouldn’t have remembered exactly how brave I believe I am and how fantastic this job opportunity is for me and my future. Above all, it makes me realize how lucky I am to have things that make me homesick. Actually, I’m double lucky; I have a good life going on here and I have a good life going on back home. Some people don’t even have one and I got blessed with two.

So if you’re four hours from home, four hundred miles from home, a four day journey from home, be okay with being homesick. Learn to love your new surroundings while embracing the homesick and think about how awesome it’s going to be to get to sleep in your own bed again or unwrap a Quesarito for the first time in three months.

*Don’t get me wrong, I have an unhealthy love affair with every college English course I took and the papers that led to all nighters, tears, and an even bigger love of literature than when I started. For me, I needed to get out from behind the desk and have students of my own because I’m ADD and impatient (and a little bit irresponsible). Don’t tell anyone I told you not to go to college to be a teacher…COLLEGE IS IMPORTANT.

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