Unlike many of my old friends from high school and new friends from college, Christmas break was the first time I returned to my hometown, slept in my bed, and saw my old pals. Going to college over a thousand miles away, in a city with no trains or direct flights to home, meant that from September until December, I didn't get to hop home for the weekends or even Thanksgiving. My friends who stayed in state for school took a short drive from school to do laundry on the weekends, and my friends in Boston took trains to spend a day or two in their beds at home.
Honestly, I didn't feel any jealousy. I had felt ready to move on from my life in Nashville and my time in high school when I arrived in Boston, and I felt like I was getting the most out of my experience by not hopping home on the weekends. However, my commitment to this idea of starting a completely new book in my life, rather than a new chapter in the old one, has resulted in some confusion upon returning to my hometown, and some guilt through the semester when I realized I should be more homesick and more excited to return to my hometown.
I realized this for the first time when I saw my mom's face after referring to going back to college in Boston as "going home". Her face told me that she was a little hurt that I didn't see Nashville, and my childhood house as the default for "home" anymore. I wondered if this is something all of my friends were experiencing, as I hardly knew anyone who hadn't returned before the Christmas break. Even my international friends who had stayed the entire time in Boston, some who have been at college for a year or more, referred to their place at their parents house as home. I felt increasingly self conscious about the way that the word "home" increasingly escaped from my mouth as "Nashville," and how my dorm, Northeastern, and Boston had all become synonymous for "home."
My mindset when I returned was that home was Boston now. Nashville was my old home, but not still my home. We can leave homes behind, and they just start to be places, right? But, it didn't make sense to me that I had this overwhelming familiarity with everything in this place, and a muscle memory that could get me anywhere, and that nothing felt different in this place-- but that it could be just a place. Nashville felt like it had paused when I left and resumed when I touched down on my flight back. I don't mean that in a way to say that life here revolved around my presence, but rather that the city is so familiar that six months could pass and I could step right back into it without any trouble. That has to mean it is more than a place.
I realized it wasn't just a place that used to be home, but rather that it would always be my home. But, what does that make Boston? I had never toyed with the idea that home could be spread about, in more than one place, at more than one time. Even if I decide to say Nashville is definitely home, I can't say that Boston isn't home. Even though I've been a Bostonian for a short time, I've started to put down roots. I have a routine. I know the rhythm of the city and the quirks of the subway. I haven't been fully initiated to the city, and won't have been until the first big snowstorm hits, but I feel like I have a place there.
I don't believe in the theory that home is wherever the heart and the people you love are-- because you deserve to have a home even when those people are far away from you, and when things are new and when you're finding your footing. I think home is where you know the beat, and where your muscle memory kicks in. Home is where you don't need a GPS less than you do need one (I'm working on this), where you have a favorite way to walk to where you live, or where you know exactly how long it takes to get to work.
Home is a place you can return to and step into the swing of without missing a beat. Home might just be one place, a familiar setting that holds a sense of comfort. Home might be the seven places you lived through high-school that you could step back into in a heart beat. Home might be your college campus, that allowed you a fresh start and a place to be your real self. Or, home might be nowhere yet, somewhere you're still seeking out. Wherever it is, I hope you get to visit it often. If home is where you grew up, I hope it is a place you get to return to as much as you can. If home is your new city, I hope that your arrival back in 2016 is magnificent.
Happy new year, everyone!
Lead Image Credit: Pic Jumbo