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How do you define home? Is it where you live? Is it where you love? Is it based on people? How you feel there? Religion? Where your family is? Where you work? The school you go to? Location? There are so many ways that people try to define this abstract concept of home. While this struggle of definition seems unimportant to most groups of people in the world, it is a constant question for college students. They are the ones that this confusion affects. These students have just left their childhood home to live out a new adventure, in all of its terrifying and confusing glory. But is that new place home, or the one that was left behind? The question of home and belonging is a huge issue in the transitional time of young adulthood.
When I went away to college, I thought I would have issues with things like deadlines, not making friends fast enough, lack of sleep, crazy professors, and too much junk food. While all of those definitely play a part in college, there was this struggle I had never heard about that hit me. I did not know where home was. No one prepared me for that. I knew that school definitely didn’t feel like home with all of its unfamiliar people and places. That wasn’t something that fit into my definition of home. At this point, I fully expected the place I left behind to give me all the warm, fuzzy feelings I needed to be reminded of. I drove back to my home town of Tucson, Arizona one weekend to solve the belonging crisis I was feeling.
The issue was that once I visited where I was from for the first time since going off to college, I realized it couldn’t be home either. Everything had changed there. There were people I hadn’t met in the lives of my family members. There were situations I wasn’t aware of. The furniture wasn’t arranged quite the same. People had new jobs and kids and pets. There were inside jokes and hangout spots that I hadn’t helped discover. Home could no longer be home. I wasn’t a part of it anymore.
I came back to school feeling slightly defeated in my battle of belonging. I began talking to a few friends at college, and they were feeling the same way. This was not a unique problem. Even juniors and seniors were still struggling with this question. Where is home? It may seem silly, but your home is a big part of you. Once that part becomes foggy, it’s difficult to know exactly who you are.
I continued to pursue this question. I spent a lot of time thinking about the phrase “home is where the heart is.” I felt that it had a good point. If I could figure out where my heart was, I could figure out where my home was. That’s where things started to get more complicated. Parts of my heart were wrapped up in home-cooked meals, old friendships, and Tucson’s fiery sunsets. Other parts of my heart were tied up in learning new things, being on my own, and pursuing new friendships. So where was my heart?
The conclusion I have come to is that both are home. Why just have one? Home is wherever little pieces of your heart are scattered. To me, home is now this spliced together collage of old memories and new ones. It is old friends and new ones. It’s places I’ve been a thousand times and rooms I’ve never been in. It is comfort and courage. And I like it. It’s not a lack of belonging. It’s just different kinds of belonging, all coming together at once for a unique phase of life. Love all of your homes, and let your heart get wrapped up in them. It’s worth it.