On the eve of fall break, I sat in the common room and watched as, one by one, all of my friends headed home. They were so excited and I was happy for themm. –; There are few feelings as special as the feeling you get when you are going home to your parents, your home, and your friends.
I was Penn. State-bound, toand visited my cousin in her cheap college apartment, rather than my family and our familiar, comforting home. In the days leading up to fall break, I found joy asking my friends about their plans once they were home. By Friday evening, my pleasure in living vicariously through my friends had worn off: the common room was strangely quiet and oddly lonely.
In the awkward stillness of the dorm and the long drive through the beautiful, rolling Pennsylvania Hills, I contemplated the very idea of home, because as I wished my friends well on their journey home, I realized they were leaving one of their homes behind. Through this reflection and my own experiences, I developed my own meaning and theory of home.
I have had more than one home since I was nine and my parents divorced. Thankfully, my parents never made me choose allegiance and I adjusted into my two-homed life. Each home was unique and I learned to never compare the two, but rather to appreciate what made that each home special. And wWhile each home was different, I was always able to express whatever side of me I was feeling, and someone whom I loved was always there beside me.
This past January, I solidified a new home, across the world’s largest ocean and on the opposite end of the earth, in Australia.
My dad is Australian and I have been there more than a handful of times. I hold Australian citizenship and always considered myself half Aussie. So after living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for six months, I connected even more with my Australianness and thoroughly believed Australia was my third home. I only felt homesick twice –- , when my family left after visiting for two weeks and while I was on vacation with my host family –- , and that’s because it’s impossible to feel homesick when you are already home. I did some soul searching at the beach, procrastinated on homework while watching “The Biggest Loser” and eating a bowl of ice cream, and danced wildly with my little host sisters to One Direction. I was able to be me: uncensored, unedited, and unabashed.: I was home.
Two months ago I acquired a fourth home at CWRU and it is the most unconventional one yet. It is not confined to the traditional nuclear family unit; rather it is compromised of 30thirty young people, each with their own place and role to play in our rambunctious family.
The creation of this family and new home was exponential. We began as a group of awkward freshmen self-consciously partaking in icebreakers. Soon, by the sheer fact of living together, we became ridiculously comfortable with each other and grew into the furthest thing from strangers. We have held a meeting concerning a floor bunny, enthusiastically curse our classes together and then quietly study, respectful of each others’ needs. Together we care for an imaginary cat, have movie nights, and hold mini dance parties to de-stress: we are Clarke fFloor 2 and we are a family.
It is through these experiences that I have come to truly understand what home is.
Home isn’t just where you were born or grew up or even where your parents live, it’s where you feel at home. Home is where you can close your eyes, take a deep breath, and feel instantly at ease. Home is where you always feel comfortable, it’s where you can be your whole self and no one will judge you for it.
When you are home, you never feel like a guest. You can return from months away and it’s like you never left because you are familiar with how the place operates. You belong at home and home belongs to you.
Home is where you can cry and someone will be there for condolence; where you can talk and someone will always listen; where you can dance and no one will pass judgment; where you can laugh and be surrounded by people you love laughing with.
I have four homes, four safe havens, and I consider myself infinitely lucky because of this. When I am at home, I can just be who I want to be. It doesn’t matter if I’m angry, happy, or sad, because I am home and that is comfort enough. My mom’s house, my dad’s house, Australia, and CWRU are all my home, and I hope with all my heart that they will forever remain this way.