Home. It’s such a simple word and yet so hard to define. When I was a kid, I never understood the phrase “home away from home”. For me, home meant the house where I had grown up. That was where I resided, that was my home, and that was the center of my small universe. Even through Middle and High School, I did not fully understand this phrase. My house was my home. Simple as that. Then I graduated High School.
My Freshman and Sophomore years of college, I defined home as the township in which I had grown up. Half of my friends were a year or two younger than me, so that’s where they still were. I had friends who cared about me there. Mentors who believed in me. Family friends who had known me all my life. Memories in every corner. Places that felt familiar and a routine that felt safe. I thought going to college would be an adventure. In the beginning, that was not what it felt like at all. It felt like I was trapped in a faraway land, forced to watch the people I truly cared about growing farther and farther away. College may have occasionally been fun, but it still felt like a prison. That’s when I learned what the phrase “home is where the heart is” truly means. My heart was not where I resided it, but in the place I left behind. I’d never felt such exquisite pain.
Now that I have graduated college, I am finding the exact opposite to be true. Suddenly, I am back home. I can contact my old friends from High School and meet up with them. I am living in my old childhood house with my parents. My college friends are now the ones who are scattered. Everything should finally feel right again. And yet…
Yesterday, I went up to my old college town to visit the career center in search of some guidance. For a clue on where to go. Unfortunately, nobody was there. But, despite the fact that I drove an hour out of my way for no reason, I do not regret the drive. Because I found someone up there who was able to help me far more than any career center worker could. Myself. Sitting in one of the lounges where I used to waste my hours between classes, it felt as though a missing piece of me had clicked back into place. Four years of memories flooded back into me. I felt strong, capable, confident, and ready to take on the world again. I looked back at the fears and anxieties I have felt from work and it suddenly felt so small and insignificant. It was like a sudden clarity. I remembered who I was and who I wanted to be. It seemed so clear and obvious. How could I ever have forgotten?
Over the course of four years, my college town has managed to feel like a home. The places, the people, and the memories will stay with me forever. But, for some strange reason, it’s easy for me to forget all that when I’m back in my hometown. It’s as though the whole experience was just a really vivid dream. But it was real, as were all of the accomplishments I made during that period of my life. A few days ago one of my college friends happened to stop by my work and I brightened immediately, shouting across the lobby to get their attention. All of a sudden, just by seeing a college friend, I was reminded of who I am now. I am not the scared rookie, just out of High School. I’m a college graduate. My college town is my home now, and the person who I became there is still a part of me.
Except, what I realized while I was up there, is that both places are my home. Home doesn’t have to just be one place. Both versions of me can exist simultaneously. There is no “High School Me” versus “College Me”. We are one and the same. The character development I went through in college was a part of my life-long journey. It was not a separate component of me, to be filed away in a shelf and forgotten. It’s no wonder I’ve been so despondent and depressed. I know I am better than what I have become over this past month or so. I know I can do better than this. I’d only forgotten.
I do not believe that this is the end for me. My childhood home and my undergraduate home are not the only two places that I will ever call home. I refuse to believe that. But both places have a piece of my heart. To me, home is defined as having only two crucial attributes. One: It is a place where you love and you are loved. Maybe not by everyone, but by a good amount. Two: It is a place where almost every corner has a memory. I hope to create many more homes over the course of my life. But it’s not an easy task and it takes a lot of time and patience. So this is a thank you, to my hometown and my college town, for everything. For the highs and the lows. For bringing out the worst and the best in me. For introducing me to all of the amazing people I’ve met. For all of the unforgettable memories. This is not a goodbye. I know the good parts will always be waiting for me, even if they’re not bound by place or time. This is just a thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me a safe haven. A sanctuary. A home.