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.