Google defines the word “homesick” as experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it. To break it down, it means feeling a sense of loss from being away from home, loss of identity, and place of familiarity and comfort.
What many don’t realise is that like many other words, the meaning of the word “homesick” had gradually changed and decreased in severity with the cultural shift driven by modernization. Do you know that back 100 years ago or around 1918 it was considered as a formal cause of death? Yes, can you imagine someone dying from homesickness?
According to Quartz, Tiffany Watt Smith who works as a research fellow at the Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for the History of Human Emotions observed that homesickness once used to be “an extremely serious emotional sickness, so serious that it could kill you” but today, “it’s not given much credibility as an emotion.”
Along with “homesick”, “inhabitiveness” – the desire to find a permanent home – has also seem to loose its value.
And losing these values isn’t a coincidence. These shifts in emotional value for the people of today are attributed to the travel industry that grew widely in the 20th century, More people began to take risks, put themselves out there to explore the world. This caused the cultural significance of the home to steadily decline.
“With modernity at the beginning of the 20th century, there’s a massive emphasis on travel and mobility and transformation as a cultural good and thing that should be aspired to,” says Watt Smith.
“If you want to see someone as ambitious then they’re someone who travels, has new experiences, and wants to change things and shake things up. That wouldn’t have been so true 100 years earlier.”
Despite from the fact that real estate prices have skyrocketed, making it only possible to purchase your first property in your 30’s, many have viewed the term permanent residence as irrelevant. With the lack of stability this world offers and inevitable changes that occur regardless, staying put at one spot no longer seem important or a need. It is also the similar take where young people aren’t afraid of changing jobs.
With the advancement of technology, access to information and ability to travel, a person’s roots no longer define them as much as it once used to. In fact, these days a person’s measure of success is quantified by how much they travel. Isn’t the favourite cousin of the family the one that lives abroad and misses most of the family gatherings?
It may be unfortunate that most people are slowly losing their roots, but it’s an everyday reality for the ambitious current generation that pours into the job market and becomes the new leaders of today.