Fall break is upon us! (Or rather, by the time I’ll have posted this, it was very recently). This is quite possibly my favorite time of the year, for obvious reasons (I am an autumn-girl to my core). Still, aside from the seasonal bliss, I think fall break arrives at the perfect time of the semester. It’s right around when everyone starts flagging, when you notice students are no longer strolling to class and instead trudging dejectedly from place to place, weighed down by heavy backpacks and midterm stress. For about three weeks, the mantra in our dorm was “we just have to make it to fall break,” to the point where it felt nearly mythical. The likelihood of it finally arriving felt close to that of spotting a unicorn. Then at last, miracle of all miracles, we made it!
In a flurry of packing, I left campus the second I could. Not that I don’t love it here, especially when the leaves are this gorgeous, but the thought of seeing my pets and having my own shower and washing machine for a week sent me flying out of that dorm. My roommate and I said a rushed goodbye (figuring we wouldn’t miss each other too much in the span of literally one week, which we were mistaken about) and went off to our separate destinations. I was, of course, overjoyed to be home. But I found myself feeling a little weird throughout the week. For one thing, my schedule on campus is packed, and nothing is more jarring than going from that to a complete void of activity. Also, being in my hometown is so weird! My old room is completely stripped of decorations-- it’s empty and looks a little sad. Another thing: you don’t realize how much noise you’re used to in a dorm until you’re back in an actual house. It felt eerily quiet at night without the steady stream of light noise in the background-- people coming up and down the stairs, the opening and closing of doors, the microwave beeping in the distance, sinks running. It’s also disconcerting to be alone if you’re used to having a roommate-- I missed our Schmidt-and-Nick-esque bedtime chats and routine. And I missed being neighbors with one of our best friends, being able to walk two steps and be at their door. So, although break was an amazingly restful and rejuvenating week spent with my family, I wasn’t mad about going back.
All this seemed to result in something new for me-- throughout the week, I caught myself thinking of my dorm as “home”-- I can’t believe I left that at home! When I get home, I’ll do laundry. This took me by surprise, as it’s the first time I’ve just naturally found myself referring to Oberlin as home. It sparked a lot of thought for me on what home really means in this period of my life. Can it mean more than one thing, or place? I would argue yes. For me, home can still mean my childhood room and my parents’ house. It can also mean the beautiful space in Baldwin, with its huge windows and plethora of yarn and books and cat toys. Home also means my roommate/best friend, and coming back to our room at the end of a long day to tell her all about it while my cat plays fetch with us.
I have a tendency to falsely dichotomize most things, falling into a very black and white mindset. It seems that being in college does not quite mesh with this type of thinking-- it’s a transitional period that involves a lot of slow changes, a lot of growth, and sometimes the cognitive dissonance that accompanies such things. I think part of what’s difficult about college, and being in your 20s, is sitting in that discomfort of contradictory truths. So no, my home isn’t just one inhabited space. It’s multiple places, and it's the people that imbue them with meaning. And those things can all be true, and still be okay!