Home isn’t a place for me anymore, but rather it’s a feeling. I don’t like the concept that Home is just a location to which you return at the end of the day or a place that you’re safe with people who love you. For me it’s the people and the sense of belonging that are making a time a Home and not the walls that surround me.
This idea first hit me when I was on the phone with my mother in my freshman year of college. I was just calling my mom’s cell to do a routine weekly catch-up session. The sun was setting behind me and night was just beginning to fall upon my freshman dorm. It was warm enough that I didn’t need a jacket that evening, and for some reason I felt like everything was exactly as it should have been. Against the rapidly darkening sky I saw Monroe Hall’s windows glowing in the near distance as I crossed past academic buildings and parking lots, statues of men long dead and fallen orange leaves.
“Hey Mom, I’m actually almost Home now. I’m sure I’ll talk to you soon.” I’d just called the dorm I’d lived in only for a few months Home to the woman I’d lived with for over eighteen years. There was undoubtedly a moment of hesitancy in her voice that night when we said our goodbyes and hung up.
That’s when I really started to feel like there was no possible way that Home was a finite place with walls and borders. Instead, Home had to be a shifting feeling, an emotional location rather than a geographical position. There aren’t global coordinates for the feeling of safety and acceptance. This is what I felt as I walked in the front doors of Monroe Hall that night to see the friends I’d known for only a few short months sitting in the lobby “working” as usual.
This was one of those nights where it was probably best that I didn’t go up to the third floor to blurt out a bunch of half-formed feelings at a room full of people who were learning as much about me as I was learning about myself. Instead, I went to 230 where I had recently finally started feeling settled in and I just sat in my bed on top of my comforter. Staring out the window I kept hearing what was probably my imagination’s combination of Betty White and Whoopi Goldberg repeating that “Home is where the heart is.” Sitting on my bed watching the last traces of sunlight disappear behind the trees near what was then called the University Center, I knew that it couldn’t be that easy ever again, because my heart was learning to expand and to occupy more than one place simultaneously.
Now I’m in my senior year at the college looking back on the many ways my heart has been split, fractured, and scattered about over the course of my college career. My heart has gone out with those who have graduated, and I’ve left my heart all over the country with the people I’ve met. I feel not like I’ve been cutting up one organ into smaller and smaller pieces to be thrown to the wind, but instead I feel like I’m growing and always gaining new capacity to connect with other people, to feel that I have a home.
I hadn’t thought about this in a while until last weekend when I went to DC to visit some of my friends for a few nights out on the town. I haven’t been to DC probably since sixth grade, and the nightlife felt completely foreign to me. You mean to tell me that not everywhere is covered in slightly uneven brick pathways? Crazy. Throughout the course of the night I ended up running into seven friends from college whom I hadn’t in any way seen that night. Even never having set foot in this new stomping ground, I started to feel completely at home with old friends popping up every few blocks. It’s hard to feel out of place when someone with whom you’ve spent years is hugging you on a crowded street.
In short, Home isn’t a place I return to or just a group of people I hang out with. Home is the feeling of belonging that comes with having friends who accept you, care about you, and manage to teach you about yourself. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but conveniently Home is all over the place when you come from a community as strong as the Tribe.