My idea of “home” has changed quite a bit since the start of college.
For most of my life, I’ve thought of home as a location. I’ll admit that I never understood the idea of having a person as one’s “home.” I always felt that the place I could throw my backpack down on the floor and take a nap was a good enough home for me. For the past 18 years, I’ve always had a place like that, despite moving from California to Montana to Texas. Typically, that home was shared with my mother, father, and little sister. Moving to Cambridge this past fall changed that.
My “home” became a small rectangular room — even though I no longer threw my backpack down on the floor per se, this room was the place where I’d exit out of my last Zoom class for the day and flop on my bed to take a nap, which was close enough. It was my own space, devoid of my mother coming in and reminding me to wash the dishes or to pick up my shoes from the living room. As the fall semester progressed, I got into the groove of attending class, grabbing lunch and dinner from Annenberg, studying until almost (or after) midnight, and then falling asleep.
Flying back home for Thanksgiving last week, I returned to a slightly larger, but still rectangular room — a room connected to many other rooms now, in my family’s small house. I am back to my real “home”, as many would say. Yet, it doesn’t quite feel like home, even as I flop down on my bed after my last Zoom class of the day or grab trail mix from the kitchen.
Is it campus that I’m missing? Not quite. As much as I felt excited to leave my family’s home and live “on my own” for the first time back in September, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I felt lonely and wanted to see my family again by the time November came around. I missed the soft black rug in the living room, our wobbly dinner table, and my awkward childhood softball pictures stuck on the fridge. I missed the comfort and security that my family gave me.
So, I don’t exactly know where home is right now. And I’m okay with that.
I like to think that’s what comes with “growing up”: the realization that you can’t depend on a location as your home anymore. It feels a bit freeing, scary, and blissful all at once. I am both out of place, but also right at home. I get the urge to move out (especially when my mother pesters me for chores!), and other times I just want to hide under my covers with no worry or responsibility to look after. Despite it all, I find solace in the small things: for example, listening to my Spotify playlists mixed with early 2000s throwbacks and my current jams (i.e. anything by SZA), or making the peanut butter jelly sandwiches that remind me of my childhood, but also of the times I missed Annenberg dinner hours and a PBJ sandwich was all I had — and recently, working with the Harvard First Generation Program (HFGP), because helping high schoolers figure out the crazy world of college admissions reminds me of my own college application journey last year. If I could name anything as my home, it would be these small moments. I’m starting to think that “home” may just, in fact, be me.