Three days ago my sister arrived home from a month of crash course college life at her soon to be locked-in university in North Carolina. She was less than enjoyable as she returned from what they dub the “Summer Experience.” She was sure to ready herself in the fetal position on the sofa almost immediately crying out “I wanna go back to school. I hate it here. You don’t understand.” In retaliation I clicked my tongue and and wagged my finger, “Ah, young grasshopper, but I DO understand.” Clearly after 3 years of radical mood swings, trying to grasp the true concept of home, going from about 12 friends to 1 who still resided close to my hometown, spending hours in the house staring at walls, thinking “Why am I here?” (that one may have been a bit dramatic but let’s ride with it), I was certainly the first person to understand.
I have this wild and unquenchable jealousy for a select few of my friends who experience equal amounts of joy and glee when at school and at home. For myself, and as I know for a few others, I cannot say the same. Facebook often notifies us of the radiating happiness of almost each and every individual as they finish finals and set out for winter break. My deplorable news feed reads like this (at least in my mind): “Going back HOME, 1 month, back to the 215, 631, 610 (this part is the absolute worst to me because, come on, you are not a rap song, and moreover, nothing is cool about me saying like ‘going to visit my long-lost friend, *enter their social security number here*)’.” Bottom line: every across-the-board university vacation time leaves my head spinning with a single question, “Is something wrong with me?”
Abington, PA is not the most boring place in the world (There’s still like towns in Iowa that have it beat out, right? Ok, I jest). That’s not the problem, but here IS the problem. It is small. The physical smallness may not be the problem, either. To me, though, it has become the smallest place I’ve ever been. I’ve exhausted this place. I’ve ran through its parks, gone to its schools, gone to its target (Seriously, in middle school I would do this for fun), gone to its mall, gone to its churches, its single bowling alley, its bakeries, restaurants. I’ve even had 3 jobs here 1 boyfriend (whatever, some of us go through teenagehood more apathetic than others), about 6 hospital visits, I haven’t counted but I’ll round it to maybe 12 theatrical performances, I made honor roll here (all without my mom donning one of those bumper stickers, go mom!), I won some art contest in grade school here I think, I beat up a boy at my summer camp here, I wet my pants during music class in kindergarden here, I went to family engagement parties, too many funerals, and birthday parties here. I loved it here. And now, I respect what I loved, what I experienced, but I don’t want to be here. And you know what, that is okay.
Home is taken far too literally, in my opinion. And let’s face it, not to exert my opinion, but I think this statement holds much truth overall. “I want to go home,” says Sally. Well you know what I want? I want Sally to explain to me what that means because I want to go home too, in my mind at least. I hope that I can always be “home.” Usually I like to use quotes, well in general, but also to enhance my points, but here I will put my old childhood acquaintance, Laura Ingalls Wilder up against my devil’s advocate-style of argument as I copy and paste her curious quote and then throw out a few questions:
Alright, let’s start here. You haven’t even defined home for us, Laura. Now, as my definition would read as being akin to my own life, I’ll give you one from the zen teacher himself, Tich Nhat Hanh (I’ve been really into him recently, and you should be too), “Your true home is the here and now.” So, not to judge Laura Ingalls, even though I’m about to, but her books tend to read as if the exemplary home is the “little house” on that dang prairie. Maybe my negative energy toward my physical “home,” my little house on the dang street where everything looks the same and I’m frankly a cranky 21 year old who’s bored of it, will channel into something good. Maybe there is comfort for me. Why shouldn’t I compare it to me getting worked up, and in a sense, angry, about women’s rights? For as confusing as I may sound right now, I have drawn a conclusion that my dread of this house, this neighborhood, this town, is exactly the thing that has pushed me to broaden my own definition of home. What’s my here and now? Well, I’m here in my home in Abington, PA, but I’m also happy, in love, focused on friendships, focused on pushing myself. Yet, there is no comfort for me you say? All the time I spent dreading home, I somehow learned to appreciate it more, in the sense that I appreciate what it has done for me. Do I appreciate sitting around realizing that there really is very little to do here? No, I don’t. But I was able to configure a long list of things I’ve appreciated, and I think that’s pretty good. So, where’s my comfort? It’s in knowing I was to keep moving and going, in knowing I grow comfortable out of challenging myself to experience DIScomfort. In knowing when I travel, I find myself saying, “Let’s go home,” in knowing I just spent 6 weeks abroad in South Asia and although inside my physical home I felt hot, tired, often cranky, and uncomfortable, I still felt “at home.” It was my here and now. But I am comforted to know most of all that “home” is not simply this house.
So I hope my sister Hannah feels at home as she begins here four-year long venture of education, friendship building, heartbreak, and happiness at High Point University, but I also hope that through her whining, crying, and bickering, she learns to make her own list of things she can appreciate about this place we’ve been conditioned to view as the one and only “home” and what it has done for her. But, I hope she also realizes it’s okay to dread and become frustrated because home, above all, is in the mind. And maybe, in mind, she’s still at school. And maybe, I’m still in Nepal. And maybe, my mom’s “home” is still back when I was sixteen. But let’s be real, it’s probably not.
peace, love, and writing about scattered thoughts,
PS: Here’s a shout out to my one and only remaining friend in the Abington area, but greatest, and strongest girl I’ll ever know on the day after her 22nd birthday, Rachel J! (This was appropriately filed at picture no. 22)