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JA: Junior Anonymous [Eph Diary #2]

This installment comes exactly two weeks later than planned, due to some cross-country travels and other such summertime excuses.  My apologies.  -TD

Going Home Again

I am home. 

For four whole days, crammed in between internships and travels and living life, I will exist once again within the boundaries of my hometown.  And I could not be more thrilled.

I still consider this place my “real” home, a fact that surprises me more than anyone.  When I left for college two years ago, I was one of those kids eager to leave the nest, confident that I was ready for a new adventure, a new life, a new home.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found all that and more at Williams.  But at the same time, I find myself craving this place, my childhood home, in a way that I never imagined I would.  This town, where I lived exclusively for the first seventeen-point-nine years of my life, is the backdrop to all of my memories.  This house, where I lived for more than half my life, stores all the wonderful detritus of my formative years.  This place, which I know more intimately than anyplace else in the world, is where my family is.  And so this place is home. 

Still, I recognize the signs that my concept of “home” has changed since the day I left my own small town for the even smaller Williamstown.  When I return, a phenomenon that is sadly becoming increasingly infrequent, things are subtly different.  I no longer know the television channels.  My family joined a new swim club and made the switch to organic peanut butter.  The baby sister who I SWEAR was just in diapers is suddenly taller than I am.  I don’t even know whose toothbrush is whose around these parts.  I realized this morning (in a flash of horrifying clarity) that the orange brush, which at that moment was hard at work buffing my incisors, actually belongs to my little brother.  Barf.  At Williams, I have a pack of ten toothbrushes… and I always know which is which.

The very nature of the residential college makes the concept of “home” a hard thing to pin down.  Certainly, Williams is my home, too, the backdrop for all of my new experiences and memories.  It’s a weird sort of home, though, because for college students there is always an expiration date.  Every nine months, we pack up all of our stuff and leave the Purple Valley.  When we return, it is always to a new room, new neighbors, a new home base…until the day we graduate, and leave behind the Bubble for good.  I worry, sometimes- will my beloved Williams stop being my home after I leave it? 

In my final week of waiting to become a bona-fide JA, I have been thinking a lot about the role of the entry in Williams life.  Though it is certainly not the case for all of my peers, the entry is a place that I look back on with the fondest of memories.  I remember writing in my journal (Nerd Alert!) during First Days about how, with every day that passed, my entry felt more and more like home, my entrymates more and more like family.  At the end of the year, it was jarring to leave that communal space; I returned to my “real” home and found myself homesick for a different place entirely. 

It was even stranger to return to Williams and suddenly be without the safety net of my entry.  My “family” was now living all over campus, and those bonds we’d forged were tested by the paradoxical challenges of busyness and laziness.  I’m still tight with some of my entrymates and my JAs, but sophomore year found me falling out of contact with more entrymates than I’d care to admit.  The transition was a difficult one, and I grieved the loss of my entry even as I knew that moving on was a necessary process.  Then one day I realized that my new room had become home, too.  In the absence of my entry, I had forged a new family in this space- some entrymates, some teammates, some none of the above.  My two years at Williams have been entirely different, and yet I have loved them both.

In four days I will begin my journey back to school, to begin another year.  In a strange twist of fate, I will be returning once more to the very same entry that was my home two years ago.  Though originally dismayed at the prospect of living in a place that has become shrine-like in my mind, I have come to realize that I am not returning to my entry, not really.  My entry no longer really exists in the same way that my childhood home no longer really exists, no matter how hard I try to cling to either of them.  At this point in my life, “home” is not a physical place, nor is it a singular one. 

What is a “real” home, anyway?  My home is where my memories are, where my dreams are, and where my loved ones are.  For now, I have lots of homes, and I think I’m okay with that.

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#1 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On August 25, 2009 @ 4:04 am

Thank you. Many thoughts.

#2 Comment By PTC On August 25, 2009 @ 6:20 am

This is a great post tiny. I am sure we will hear more about it, but good luck with your new old home. It has to be cool, going back to a place full of freshman memories, in an effort to harness that and guide others. You will know what it is like to be the older sister in that home. Leadership changes a lot of things. That has to be an interesting dynamic.

You should stick around for summer if you can. Also, check out your ability to go overseas for a semester. I am not sure if that is possible fall of senior year? I bet it is, with the right advisor, depending on your major. You will not regret it, although your coach may. Athletics stops a lot of people at Williams from doing that. The best move I made in college was shelving my wrestling shoes and heading for Madrid Spain a semester.

Keep on posting.

#3 Comment By Dick Swart On August 25, 2009 @ 10:37 am

Very nice writing! Great sense of place, and poignancy well-realised.

This is a good place to experiment: a small but literate audience resonant to the material enough for references, but ready for unexpected perspective in point-of-view and voice.

Dick

#4 Comment By JG On August 25, 2009 @ 10:41 am

Thanks for your thoughts – personal while I think allowing many (most) of us to see ourselves in them.

Good luck with JA training and First Days, which are almost here!

#5 Comment By sophmom On August 25, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

Lovely, insightful post. Written so beautifully, and I daresay, speaks for many. Thank you, Tinydancer. I look forward to hearing more from you.

#6 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On August 25, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

I had a similar experience between frosh and sophomore years. Gradually getting to know the people on my hall was very different, because we didn’t have anything to start with, but they were good people and I was glad to have a year of random 2 AM conversations with them.

I spent a few more weeks at home this summer, though, and while it’s a nice retreat, it’s not the same home that I remember.

I think home for me is now time with the people I love, which is temporal and not physical. I have places with memories all over my hometown at at Williams, but I feel like I’ve gathered in my metaphorical “nest” around myself, and am waiting to plunk it down in a different space that I reside in instead of occupying, if that makes sense.

T-minus one week!

#7 Comment By Ronit On August 25, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

Thank you for this. Wonderful post. I agree that home is not a physical place, at least for me. I’ve never lived anywhere for long enough to consider it home. I can’t seem to settle down anywhere for more than a couple years on average.

However, even I found moving every 9 months at Williams disorienting and annoying. I wonder how different it would have been if, as in olden days, we had stayed in the same dorm for 3 or 4 years. As it were, semesters were always far too short for me to ever consider Williams home.

I only went back to my freshman entry, where I formed many significant memories, once after freshman year. I went with my first-year suitemate to our old suite, said hi to the current inhabitants, and came away feeling weird and creepy.

#8 Comment By Vicarious’83 On August 27, 2009 @ 10:08 am

TD, thanks for the posts. Apropos of nothing, your Christmas reference in the last post reminded me of this – perhaps you’ve already seen it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBkur_ghAwk

Here’s hoping your frosh are cool.