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Home, near and far

There’s nothing like racing up the stairs of your home at the start of winter break to be greeted by your family, whom you haven’t seen for months. They stare at you, gawking in a state of disbelief, unsure if you’re really you, while simultaneously checking to see if you’ve kept up with your personal hygiene. This is the reality of returning home for a college student.

The transition to college is a significant one. When we arrive here, there is a sense of loss — and how can there not be? We’ve given up our home for the college setup with its bathrooms and cinderblock walls, which stand in stark contrast to our prior settings. But eventually our surroundings get the best of us, taking up our attention and causing us to forget what it was like at home. We become acclimated.

The dorms are what make this place feel like a home. Living with people who are experiencing the exact same things allows for empathy. At what other point in your life will it be acceptable to fall into a fit of laughter because reading another page of Aristotle will make you want to lack in virtue? Being away at school helps drown out feelings of homesickness.

When we return to where we’ve come from, we’re confronted with the oddity of these two different lives. There’s a lack of independence, because once again we’re under the care of someone. There’s an element of wanting to prove your acquired knowledge, and so we find ourselves making weak references in situations, confident that the argument over what kind of vegetables to make for a holiday meal perfectly resembles some esoteric text we  read in a political science course.

When at home, we miss the Hill — or at least I did. This in itself is disappointing because it should feel good to be home, no? It should be a treat to be reunited with the family and the house you have missed, yet I felt like a visitor in my own city that I thought I would have missed more.

Being back home brought feelings of conflict and confusion: How do I sort through these thoughts? Why can’t I enjoy my time here and now? How can “home” still be my home if I only visit? How can the place where I go to school now be my home when it’s still foreign? I don’t know if these questions are meant to be answered. Perhaps the place we return to during break becomes our home away from home, when in fact we’d thought the opposite when leaving for college. 

In the end — and however much like Joan Didion I sound — you have two homes. Both are good.

Eve Bromberg ’19 is undeclared from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact her at bromberge@kenyon.edu.

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