Home is a touchy word. My parent’s house doesn’t quite fit the definition, and neither does school. At nineteen I want to feel like I am finding the adult I need to be, but that’s pretty hard when everything I call mine will be some other student’s come next fall.
When I was a senior in high school, Mommy picked us up and moved across the country to Georgia. She got remarried, a new job and a new take on life at 38. This fall I went to college and she decided to move into a bigger, nicer house. She got a three-bedroom with a room for her, one for my sister London and a guest room that was designated as my landing pad on breaks.
Last week was my first break.
Tamales steaming. Turkey baking. It was Thanksgiving morning. I woke up lying in a bed I met the night before. My back was twisted from my snow-shoveling job back at school and the cheap mattress didn’t help much. Mattress aside, there was something more wrong with the scene.
The room was trying to be something it wasn’t—it was trying to be mine. I guess this was equivalent to when you move out of your family home and your parents turn your room into a gym. Scattered about were some family photos and a few of my books, but everything else was missing. Where were the hundreds of scattered papers on the floor? Where was the unmistakable smell of boy? Why was I sleeping with a lavender comforter? My trusted wiener dog Simon wasn’t even sleeping on my chest. Everything was off.
When I think of my house back in Seattle, I feel at home. I remember hysterically laughing while painting my room with my best friend Lorra. I remember sleeping with Simon the first night I got him. I remember me coming home crying because some dude didn’t like me. While I don’t want to repeat those memories (because I’m older and a man, ooo-rah), those are what make a home. The memories.
Then I started thinking about my dorm back at college. That room could never be mine either. Even with my loads of Taylor Swift merch and the family-and-friends photos, I could never call it “home.” It’s too temporary. I know some little blonde dude named Steve or Jim will replace me next fall. I could carve my name into the wall, but Residential Life will just sand it out and bill me later.
I can’t even call the dorm mine right this moment— it’s half Danny’s. Half of the room is covered in his preppy Vineyard Vines and BioChem textbooks. He also needs the room for his new girlfriend and cuddling… or whatever. Soon the new girl’s sweaters, shirts and pants will pile up everywhere. They’ll suffocate me while I try to dream hopelessly of seeing Brysen Boyd on a deed. On any given Friday night, the room will have Danny’s name on it and I’ll politely sleep in the living room.
So now I am sitting at my computer and wondering how this college thing is supposed to work. How is someone to find this “new person” within themselves when they don’t even have a home to call their own? I can learn all these new literary critiques and read all these books, but I have to remind myself all my life right now is borrowed.
The room, the address and the books will all be someone else’s by May. The big biceps I’ve developed? They’re just a trial subscription because when I graduate I won’t want to pay for a gym membership. Honestly, I even contemplate if my friends here are rented too. Will we just replace each other with coworkers when we leave college? I can walk away from this place with my mind filled and seemingly “different” than before (even if I am just older with more forehead wrinkles), but is that all I am going to have when I walk across that stage? I’m not Madonna or the girl in her song, but I do kind of like material things.
I’m not really homeless, though. This school has given me this great new privilege— for once I am well off-ish. I am earning more money and a wonderful education. I just don’t know where my “home” is. It’s not back in Georgia. It’s not here in Boston. I wish it were in Venice because the photos online look so pretty, but it’s not and I don’t even know Italian. I can think of all these could-be homes, but in reality I am sitting alone in a hallway with nowhere to house all of my experiences.
Everyone keeps saying they are so lost with their majors. They talk of how their career futures are non-existent. I’ve always wanted to write, so I’m lucky there. But I understand, I’m lost too. Where will I go when I am tired and want to feel at home? Making a home for myself might be a little more difficult than when I played with Lincoln Logs. They say we will all figure it out when we are older, but the more I watch Lena Dunham on HBO, the more I think that day may never come.
In Georgia I feel like a transient, who unpacks his suitcase, only to pack it again the next week. When I leave stuff in the Georgia shower, I feel wrong because that’s what residents do–not guests. When I am at college, my clothes hang on the racks but at the drop of a hat a new student could come in and replace me if the Resident Director so decided. I’ve tried six ways to Sunday to find my footing somewhere, but it’s like I’m constantly slipping on black ice.
Right now I have no choice. I have to keep going back to the lavender guest room on breaks and try to build makeshift homes of my own when I am here “finding myself.” I just have to wait and pray that the home feeling will return. I really hope it does. Then I could go back to laughing/sleeping/crying in a bed that’s actually big enough for an adult.