Coming back to my little college campus for my second move-in day was exciting but nerve-wracking in all the right ways. I was ready to hit the ground running this semester both academically and socially; remaining in my bubble of a comfort zone just wasn’t an option anymore.
Being a sophomore makes me just old enough to know better but still young enough to make some mistakes without them having an immediate impact on my future. What I mean is that I am not constantly daunted by the thought of figuring out what I’ll be doing after graduation since I still have two more years to go.
The biggest struggle of adjusting to the college life again after being back home for the summer is what I will refer to as “the conundrum of ‘home’”. The word “home” has become an enigma more so in the past few months than ever before because I have put my trust and love and values in different locations and in different people that are scattered all over the place.
Sometimes home is my Grandparents’ houses in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. At these homes of mine, there is always someone to greet you with a peck on the cheek when you wake up in the morning. The fridge and cabinets are always stocked with the same snacks I’ve been eating since I was little (buttery shortbread cookies in a tin, sticks of bubble gum, popsicles in every flavor, and always, always apple juice). In Puerto Rico my cell phone’s plan doesn’t have roaming minutes, so I’m partially cut off from the constant on-screen stimuli that I’m used to. I’ve grown to appreciate the lack of cell service, it’s allowed me to stop caring what everyone else is doing at all moments of the day and instead focus wholeheartedly on all of the people I love, trying to understand with every ounce of my being what they are saying when they speak in rapid spanish with the sound of coquis as the soundtrack to our existence.
Most of the time Flemington, New Jersey is my home. I never loved Flemington more than I did when I left it for the first time last fall. Flemington gives me all four seasons with a clear distinction between them all. Autumn in Flemington is my favorite. It is where I made and kept all of my best friends, where I lost all of my baby teeth, where I experienced so many firsts and accomplished so many of life’s milestones. It is the home I go back to on breaks and the home I will tell my children about. Flemington has become so crucial to my identity since going to college and having people constantly ask me where I’m from. The answer is always Flemington, even if nine times out of ten they have no idea where that is.
Now, undoubtedly, the quirky town of Ithaca, New York is also home. If you were to have told me during the spring of my junior year in high school when I visited this campus for the first time (it was snowing… in April) that I would come to love this place as much as I do I would’ve thought it was ridiculous. And yet, I found my way here and I couldn’t be more grateful that I did. I’ll admit it, freshman year was rough. It was a potpourri of trying so desperately to make a group of friends like I had in Flemington, learning how to do work for college level courses, and trying to have the social life that I considered to be synonymous with “college” from all of the stories I’d heard from those older than me. Somehow, through a lot of trial and error and phone calls to my mom I figured out how to “do college” in the way that makes most sense to me.
And here I am, back again for my third semester, still figuring things out through trial and error, still calling my mom at all times of the day. I don’t think my real home can be pinpointed to places on a map. Home is a feeling, as I’m sure you’ve heard many, many times before.
When I think of “home” I think of the way my dogs feet sound when they come to greet me at the garage door, or I think of the chills I get from the air conditioner that me and my sister put on full blast whenever we stay at my grandparent’s house in Puerto Rico. But now, I also consider home to be my lumpy twin XL bed and the cool breeze of doing my homework while sitting on the quad and the stuffy air of the library’s silent floor during midterms week.
I don’t feel guilty for loving school so much anymore because I know it’s what all of those closest to me wished for me when I was choosing a college. I have the chance to explore a new niche in the world while also finding new parts of myself. (I like to go outside and do things like hike now. Weird, right?)
It’s been said by many before me and it will be said by many after me, but you are your own home. Home isn’t one place or one person, it’s a feeling you get in response to any of those things. It all boils down to what I was saying earlier, being a sophomore makes me just old enough to know better but still young enough to make some mistakes without them having an immediate impact on my future. So I might as well do the things I want and experience all of the consequences of my actions through and through. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll learn something along the way (or maybe I won’t).
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m really, really glad to be home and I’m glad to have people to share it all with and I’m glad that I’m glad and that things feel right again, even if only for a short while. And I wish you all the same.