Last week, I cried for the first time in what might have been months. I was feeling homesick, and didn’t want to deal with the things I was dealing with. I used to cry a lot when I was a child, and it’s something that I didn’t grow out of entirely as I grew older. Realizing that I haven’t cried in a long time also filled me with a type of sadness in its own way.
It was mid-afternoon, and it felt like everything was exploding and imploding. I felt huge and small and contradictory. I was anxious about things that were out of my control (always a dangerous place to be, and always a frustrating thing to fixate on) and needed someone to tell me that everything was going to be okay. I was tired, and I wanted to not have a sink overflowing with dirty dishes that were not my own, to go to sleep in my bed, and to be back at home. Vocalizing the distinction between dorm and home was a funny thing for me.
I spend a fair amount of time in my dorm – cooking, sleeping, and studying. I host friends in my kitchen and we cook together over a crowded coiled stovetop. I sit on my couch with my roommate and watch television, when we both get the free time to do so. I listen to music at loud volumes, dance in varying states of dress and undress in the mornings and at night. I live in my dorm, but I don’t feel like I occupy it, which is a far more difficult and more conscious decision to make.
It’s strange to feel homesick for something that is so close by. When I’m stressed out, I miss my childhood home. The distance from my neighborhood to my campus is a little more than a dozen miles. (I’ve biked back and forth on several occasions over the summer.) And I feel selfish for missing it, because it isn’t inaccessible in the same way that home is inaccessible for my international friends. Still, it’s a brand of homesickness all the same, and I am deciding to dissect it.
I’m writing this all out from the couch in the living room of my childhood home, drinking tea and wearing the more embarrassing printed pajama pants that I don’t let people see. There are pictures in frames on the mantelpiece, and pieces of furniture that don’t look exactly the same as the standard set issued by the dorms. It’s unique, but what’s more is that it’s familiar and concrete. Knowing that my parents are at home to keep me company and protect me from the occasional meanness of the world also keeps me coming back. I need a place where I can feel safe feeling vulnerable.
Next year, I’m moving off campus into a house that I will share with friends. I wonder if being anchored to a house and a lease will change the way that I look at home. When I get my own picture frames and buy my own end tables, maybe I won’t feel the same dependency on my parents and on routine. I think that it’s an obvious part of maturation, when one no longer feels homesick. I wonder when I’ll reach it.