While searching for a quote for a recent Facebook photo album (I know, I know), I stumbled across a new favorite from Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
When I was younger, I thought the word “home” meant my family’s one-story never-clean brick house on Crooked Lane. It made sense. That was my home. That was where I slept, where I ate breakfast, where I fought with my siblings. Where else could my home be?
It wasn’t until I got older and (barely) wiser that I understood “home” could be wherever I wanted it to be. If I felt safe, I was home. This realization shot me off like a rocket, skittering through safe pockets of horse stalls and mountains and wooden bridges. The sound of gravel under sneakers or the feeling of high tide on my ankles or a really good hug. I am centered and content in these experiences, and it sits well with my soul.
Home is wherever I’m with you.
Home can be other people, too. Hugging your family after six months without them. Seeing your roommates and best friends for the first time in a month. Kissing a partner who never fails to make you feel like sunlight and victory songs.
It is okay to get strength from those around you. Part of the human experience is the fact that people are social beings. We’re like most herd animals: We can survive by ourselves, but we won’t be happy. The chorus of a very moving, eloquent song (read: Strong by One Direction) makes a great argument: “I’m sorry if I say, “I need you”/But I don’t care/I’m not scared of love/’Cause when I’m not with you I’m weaker/Is that so wrong?/Is it so wrong/That you make me strong?” No, Liam, Harry, Louis, Niall and Zayn. It’s not wrong that love empowers you and makes you feel like a whole human. Also, call me.
College kids, learn to love your city. I can’t exactly preach “BUY ONLY LOCAL KEEP [insert city name here] WEIRD” because I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. Like, a lot. Like, the manager saw me on the street and said hello. The point remains the same.
Say hello to the employees at your regular coffee spot. Go exploring on the running trails near your apartment. Discover a hole-in-the-wall cafe with really great lunch deals. Take the bus instead of driving. Walk through the Arts District. Find out what makes your town different and special and important. It’ll make you 1) a better tour guide when family and friends come to visit and 2) happier to live there for four (or more) years.
The most important thing is that you are your home. Don’t deny yourself one minute of sunshine or love or laughter or real, genuine happiness. Don’t deny yourself a stress-cry session or a long hug or an apology. Get used to the way your bones move after a full-night’s sleep. Learn how your eyes look in the sun. Let yourself chew on your lip during thunderstorms. You are here and valid and okay.
You aren’t home until all your boxes are unpacked, anyway, so settle in.
You’re going to be here for a while.
Related note: Here’s a really great 8tracks playlist called HOME. It’s got Bon Iver and Ben Howard on it, so nothing can go wrong.