Thanksgiving Break: Going Home or Leaving Home?

It’s that time of year again. The time when the trees are changing color, the nights are getting longer, and the café has started making pumpkin bread and turkey with mashed potatoes more often. All of this means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and for me it’ll be the first time seeing my family this semester (they weren’t able to make it down for parents’ weekend, and I spent fall break at my girlfriend’s house). I’m enormously excited to see them, and I can’t wait to be in Boston again. But when I think about when I’ll have to head to the airport and board a plane, I can’t help but wonder: am I going home, or leaving home?

The obvious answer would seem to be simple – I’m going home. And it would seem to make sense. I’m heading back to my hometown; I’m going to the place where I grew up; I’m going to go sleep in the very same bed in the very same house where I’ve lived the vast majority of my life. This place is school, I think to myself; where I’m going is home.

But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that when I leave the College for the weekend, I’m leaving home too. And that feeling, when I think about it, also makes sense.

That’s because for over a year now, I’ve eaten, slept, and lived here. That’s because all the groups I’m involved in, from my fraternity to my involvement with OCES, are here. That’s because just about all of my hopes and stresses–the things that I’m excited for and worried about–are here.  That’s because I’ve practically memorized the patterns of the bricks on the pathways along the Sunken Gardens. That’s because I’ve learned what times to avoid the weight room at the Rec in the afternoon when it’s crowded. That’s because I know which professors to look out for during registration, and that’s because I’m aware of the sad fact that the Philly Cheese Steak sub isn’t on the meal plan anymore at the Marketplace. In almost every way, the College has come to feel like my home too.

Whenever I go back to Boston, my home here always seems to creep into my day to day life there. Sometimes, I catch myself grabbing my W&M ID card when I’m about to do laundry. Other times I grab my dorm key instead of my house key when I’m about to head out for the night. And it always takes me a little time to adjust to the welcome fact that I can eat meals anytime without having to worry about how many swipes I’ve got left. When I first got to the College, I used to see faces from my hometown everywhere. Now, it’s the opposite.  When I go back to Boston I can’t stop doing double-takes as I think that I’ve seen people from my life here—from  a group of guys driving down the street that look like some of my fraternity brothers, to an elderly neighbor who I swear works part time as one of the “colonials” in CW (how she manages that commute I have no idea). I even use the word “home” casually in conversation with family members and friends in Boston, only to pause for a moment afterwards and realize that the “home” I was referring to wasn’t the place where I grew up, but instead was W&M.

So again, there’s the big question that I’ve been struggling with as Thanksgiving approaches: am I going home, or leaving home?

My answer: I’m doing both. And I’m perfectly OK with that.

Because when it boils down to it, who says I can only have one home? To me, the cold tiles of my unit mean as much to me as the warm rugs of my house.  To me, chilling out on the Sunken Gardens on a sunny day is as relaxing as chilling out on a New England beach.

But perhaps most importantly, it’s the people that are important to me that make both places feel like home. Here at William and Mary, these people are my fraternity brothers, my freshman hall mates, and the countless other people I’ve met across campus that I consider to be my wicked good friends. In many cases, I consider them essentially my family. Back in Boston, these people are my buddies that I’ve grown up with and went to school with, my co-workers, my teammates and the countless other people I’ve encountered through the years. It’s the people I also consider my wicked good friends, and again, in many cases essentially my family (not to mention my actual family in Boston!).

In the end, I’ve come to realize that when you surround yourself with people you call your family, that’s where your home is. And if, like me, you’ve also come to realize that you’ve got a family in more than one place, just remember: who says you can only have one home?

One Tribe. One Family.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Zack Brown


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