I’m not an army brat by any means, but I’ve moved around a fair amount. Nine different homes across six cities and three states, with five moves since the pandemic. The address on my driver’s license doesn’t match with where my credit card bills are sent, and I couldn’t confidently tell you my current zip code.
My sister and I like to joke that moving has become a hobby for our parents. They’ve never liked living in the same place for more than three-ish years, developing a strange affinity for large cardboard boxes and packing tape.
This past fall, my parents moved again. For Thanksgiving break, I left Duke for a house that my parents decided to call home after an exhausting year of construction. Shelves were absent of family mementos, empty cabinets dominated the kitchen and I didn’t know where anything was. Walking into my new room felt like I was staying in an Airbnb that had my personal belongings, all slightly out of place.
There’s discomfort in change, especially when it’s out of your control. Not having a space where you feel completely at ease creates a unique type of emotional strain. I feel like everyone experiences at least some degree of this when coming to college: establishing yourself in an entirely different social and academic environment, deciding who to become in this new chapter of life — it’s a lot. And we need to give ourselves credit for going and getting through it.
But at the same time, there’s opportunity and excitement around the ability to re-establish yourself and your routine. I’ve started forcing myself to embrace the discomfort of change that comes with adjusting to a new environment. In distancing myself from the restricting idea of what a four-lettered, four-walled space traditionally looks like, I’ve found pockets of peace in my own definition of “home.”
Home doesn’t have to be the place with your childhood heights marked up on the inside of a closet doorway or the place where you took your first day of school pictures in the same spot fourteen years in a row. Where you grew up can be what you consider home, but it shouldn’t be your only sense of it. Homesickness won’t be so bad if you seek out that comfort in more areas of your life.
At Duke, I have that feeling in Bella Union, right before it opens and the sun is streaming through the windows. Also, on the Grainger Hall rooftop patio, in the garden full of nothing but weeds, in a half-broken lawn chair, overlooking the Chapel in the distance. And an honorable mention goes to the walk back from the library to Edens Quad long past midnight, specifically on the botched, downhill trail behind Few.
Home is the person who will join you in WU and talk about everything under the sun until long after it closes. Or the one with whom you can just sit and exist, do nothing in particular and feel totally at ease. And not to be forgotten is the one who you see maybe twice a year, but they still just get it no matter what.
The moments when I can see the stars so clearly in the night sky, when I smell a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies or when I’m blasting music in the car and the perfect throwback song comes on are always the highlights of my day, my week. It’s when I am the most grounded, most settled, which is often oh-so needed.
Finding solace in these unconventional ideas of what a home can be is pure bliss. It doesn’t always come immediately after change. It doesn’t always appear right in front of you. It doesn’t always stay forever. But when that sentiment is there, and when you realize what it is, embracing that connection to your inner self, your closest confidants or your favorite spaces is where at least I find the greatest emotional fulfillment.
Feeling like you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, feeling like you’re right at home — whether it’s at a specific place, with a specific person or in a specific moment — there’s truly nothing better. And so, I hope you feel that soon.
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