Longing for family in Europe, stuck in California during the pandemic

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Madeleine Sydkvist, Staff Photographer

Life is really never what you expect it to be.

A lot of people have learned that this past year. 

Simple things that once were everyday chores are now a memory of a life that seems distant. Face coverings are just as part of your outfit like shoes when stepping outside. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world off its feet earlier this year the thought of not being able to see my family in Europe because of a travel ban never once crossed my mind. 

When the United States announced a travel ban from Europe, it crossed my mind a lot.

Like, a lot. 

All my plans shattered to the ground when life turned into lockdown.

My flights going home for the summer were all canceled. I would not be let back into the U.S. when my school resumed in California if I went back home to my family in Sweden.

My inner contemplation tore my mind in every direction. Go home and not come back, or stay but not go home.

Now, I do know how lucky I have been. 

I had the opportunity to stay and the opportunity to go.

I chose to stay, something that was easier said than done. 

Staying meant not seeing my family for at least another six months, which will make it close to  two years since I last saw most of them outside of my phone screen. 

Knowing that I couldn’t see them made me miss them more than ever. The five thousand miles between us felt like five million.

I found myself walking the beautiful sunny beaches of Santa Barbara wishing I could change them for the rainy cold of my hometown.

My decision to move so far away felt overwhelming.

Sometimes it’s not the place, it’s the people that really matter at the end of the day.

Feeling homesick is never easy and something I think many of us feel a bit more of these days. 

And that’s okay. It’s all about trying to make the best of what you got, and feel grateful for the things in life that are sometimes easy to overlook.

I would love to go home just to hug my friends and family in my home country, but I feel incredibly grateful for the home, friends and life that I have here in California too.

So for now, joining my friends and family for dinner over FaceTime in a timezone nine hours ahead of mine is just fine.

A global pandemic wasn’t on anyone’s calendar when this year began, and hopefully it won’t be on next year’s as well. 

Santa Barbara is a place that I keep very close to my heart, but what this pandemic has taught me is that sometimes you can live in the most beautiful place and all your heart thinks of is your mother’s home cooked meals or how your younger brother is doing.

Either way, no matter how far away from home you find yourself there are still so many things in life to be grateful for. Even in the hard parts.