Today was my first time taking the train from the Fullerton stop since last spring. Most people waiting for the train fixate on Wish Field and the giant portrait of St. Vincent DePaul on McCabe Hall. I, on the other hand, could not keep my eyes off one of its sixth floor windows.
That was the window to my old room, and next to it my former roommates, Pyper and Alissa’s room. And it’s where I first found home.
Whenever I would come home from class or work, I would look into that window and see Pyper’s body outlined in the window sill. As I got closer, I would crane my neck all the way up to see her smiling face. Usually I was last to come home, so I was always welcomed by endless laughs, hugs, love, support and stories about their days.
The Pew Research Center conducted a survey with over two thousand U.S. born Americans asking them where their home was. Nearly 40 percent of people said it was not where they are currently living. When asked for their definition of home, the answers varied greatly, from where they grew up to where they lived the longest, where their family is from, among others.
Home has a variety of definitions because it is not solely contained in the four walls that surround us. Home is also a concept. We’ve seen “home is where the heart is” on countless doormats and heard Dorothy’s bliss as she clicks her heels and realizes that “there’s no place like home.” This idea of home is so powerful because the feelings we get when we’re at home are hard to replicate — or even describe. Psychology Today defines home as a predictable and secure place, where we feel control over space and time. Living with Alissa and Pyper made me feel this way. The last few weeks we spent together, we knew our time was limited, so we cherished the little moments we had left. Our feeling of home was sitting in their room lit up by the glow of salt lamps and candles, our projector playing some movie without the sound while one of our custom Spotify playlists came through the speakers. Our home felt like a dream state.
Where we live becomes part of our identity. I am an only child, but over time Pyper and Alissa became my sisters. From Alissa I gained confidence, and Pyper a new sense of self and how to laugh without holding back. But while I was finding a home within them, they were planning their transfer back to their old towns and colleges.
When Pyper moved back, she wrote on her private Instagram, “Why does my depression follow me no matter how many places I move?” Throughout my college experience, I have found that many students hope that moving will make them happier. However, we carry internal baggage that we can not run away from.
This might not be our own fault, but rather the Western ideology of the self in connection to home. According to The Atlantic, the Western viewpoint is that “perceptions of home are consistently colored by factors of economy and choice.” We define ourselves by where we are located, whereas in Southern Asia, for example, where Hinduism is the most practiced religion, oneself is their home. “Our psychology, and your consciousness and your subjectivity don’t really depend on the place where you live.”
With this new school year comes a new place, new roommates and new classes. Instead of trying too hard for these things to become a substitute for home, it is time to start building a home within myself. There are so many external factors about our life that we cannot control — and if we do not feel comfortable alone with ourselves, we never truly will be home.
Our editor-in-chief says home is back porches, laying in her bed under string lights and wherever she has her headphones in.
Our managing editor says home is going to the movies by yourself, David Bowie and the feeling of discovering a new favorite thing.
Our community editor says home is her mom.
Our web developer says home is laundry piles, a messy kitchen, vases of flowers and the green plains and forests of Wisconsin.
One of our associate editors says home is newspaper comics, farmers markets, Waffle House and pour over coffee.
Another says home is complicated — but wherever you can be barefoot and cry without fear of being judged.
Our multimedia editor says home is pink sunsets peeking through telephone wires.
Our social media editor says home is her dog.
Our illustrator says home is the sound of cicadas.
Our faculty advisor says home is any bookstore or library and her cat, Gabe.
Header by Cody Corrall, 14 East. Illustration by Hat-Tech, CC 2.0.