I am a very smell-oriented person. All my life, I’ve been more focused on sounds, smells and touches—not so much visually comprehending stuff, I guess. Consequently, I’ve always dealt with becoming too attached to certain things and then having them ripped from my little baby hands, because your senses are powerful little suckers that like to make things hard to forget–like the smell of your aunt’s house, the sound of your favorite sneakers on the asphalt, the scent of the home phone after your mom’s put it back on the receiver, or the feeling of your dad brushing your hair.
And if you’re occasionally prone to depressing thoughts regarding the future (like me), then you know that one day your aunt might move, and her new house won’t smell the same. You know that your sneakers might become disgusting and impractical and have to be thrown away. You know that your parents might one day get rid of the landline and, thus, that home phone smell you grew accustomed to will vanish. Finally, you know you won’t always live at home where your dad can brush your hair forever.
I’m a creature of habit, blah, blah, blah. You know this. It seems all my articles are like this nowadays. And that’s what growing will do to you: make you recognize the things of which you are a creature.
I moved into my dorm in August to embark on the “best four years of my life.” Let me tell you: they are going to be the best four years thus far. I can already relay to you that. But the fact that I have this wonderful and invigorating part of my life waiting on me back at school—after I return from holiday break, or whatever—does not take away from the fact that I am, at all times, at least 33 percent homesick. When my parents left that day in August and I continued to unpack my things, I sat on my floor and cried to myself as I smelled every single thing I unpacked to see if it still smelled like home (it all did). And for the next three weeks, I sneakily smelled things around my side of the room to see if they still smelled like home (some of them did, and then they started to fade, and then they didn’t smell like home).
I slowly realized that, like coming back from a vacation, your stuff stops smelling like that place you’ve been, and as much as you love that smell, you can’t help but admit you feel freer once you can’t smell it anymore. Because once it’s gone, you’re not so tempted to get in the car and drive back. But this did not comfort me really.
And then I met this guy, and he smelled nice, and his little house smelled like what he and his roommates cooked for breakfast that morning, and the soap he uses, and the fresh paint on the house’s siding. I became familiar with my roommate’s vanilla body spray and Clorox wipes. I got used to the popcorn smell in our hall, and the smell of myself, not my family back home. I imagine that I probably smell like china musk perfume, oatmeal, Trident original gum and this okay-but-mysterious smell my favorite black skinny jeans have had since I bought them. I like having that smell that’s mine. So does that guy, I think.
Smells, specifically, make people more emotionally attached and responsive. I’m not really speaking scientifically because science annoys me so I have no real authority there. I am speaking from experience.
At home in my nice little suburban world of teen angst, familial love and smells I’d known for nineteen years, I cried sometimes—mostly for reasons that now seem trivial to me—and my laugh appeared in its truest form only around my mom. At school, I have my own smells and things—my own clothes and food and shampoo and pillows and life. I laugh more often now. I also cry a lot more. But hey, for different reasons and with different people. Not so much because I’m homesick. More because I’m dearly happy to start feeling like I have two homes instead of just the one.
So, my advice to you, Homesick Person, is to wash your clothes when you get to the place you’ll be for a while. Get rid of the temptation. Start a life filled with smells unique to your new life. Make your place your place. Develop this new home, and decorate it with nice smells and sounds and touches.