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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

It was August 2020 and I was slowly peeking through the bandages of a quarantined half-year, easing back into a world waking up. My senior year had just begun, made up of early morning drives to see the greenery sprawling beneath rocky overhangs, listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ “Stranger in the Alps” on repeat, cutting my hair above my shoulders and trying to convince myself that macroeconomics was interesting. 

The ice cream shop I’d worked at sporadically during the onset of the pandemic shut down, so I started looking for a new job. Masked up in the back of my high school’s library during off periods, I would peruse the internet and apply for part time openings nearby – supermarkets or restaurant chains or retail stores, it didn’t matter. I just needed something to last until the following August, and then I’d be away at college. 

Just a year, I told myself. 

I started working at a kids’ clothing store that September by referral of a close friend. In the beginning, it was less than ideal: between begging shoppers to comply with blue rectangles of nonwoven fabric, selling through plastic dividers, disinfecting the store every few hours and trying to make sure we didn’t exceed capacity, I wondered if it was worth it. Circumstances aside, I was immediately pushed out of my comfort zone being the sensitive, contemplative introvert that I am. Preparing a sundae was one thing; trying to meet sales goals, achieve high customer satisfaction ratings and effectively position myself as a friendly source of product knowledge (in a store that was almost always swarming with shoppers) was another. 

“I don’t think this is for me,” I told my friend. Her face fell. 

“Give it just a little longer.” So I did. 

Gradually, I began to regard the place with a certain softness. Maybe this was a result of growing older or growing wiser or gaining a new awareness of the finite, I’m still not sure. But I showed up more assured every day, feeling more empowered to contribute to the team, and things stopped materializing just as they were. In each interaction I witnessed between the women I worked with, I started to notice an exhibition of motherhood. Apart from quiet conversations about children unborn, children lost, children who’d moved away or the lack of desire to have children at all, motherhood also permeated the spaces we held for one another – it appeared in embraces, reassurances, phone calls, birthday cards and in an undying willingness to share: 

“Do you need a ride home?” 

“Do you want to talk later?” 

“Have the orange I brought, I insist.” 

The pandemic subdued and I didn’t leave the next year. I eagerly came back during holidays and weekends, holding familiar faces close to me and opening my arms to new ones. Coworkers who were older than me believed in me, kept a place for me and kindly listened to me recount the most recent chapters of my life. Coworkers who were younger than me showed me a beautiful, tragic peacefulness about staying in one place as others passed through it. Even though my overlap with some of them was short-lived, it was never a waste of time. When I moved back to Boulder for my sophomore year of college, I tacked their sentiments above my desk: 

I loved being there with you.

The support you’ve given me is unmatched.

You were the first person to make me feel welcomed. 

By the time the one-year mark was hanging at the top of summer, suspended between the balmy familiarity of spring and autumn’s brisk secrecy, I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave then, or the following January, or the following March, or the following August, or at any time. Oscillating constantly between two different places and two different lives was hard every now and then, but as I look back on the last three years, I feel so grateful that a clothing store became a place I returned to fondly and abandoned heavily. I look at the ink lines on my left forearm now and Morrissey prompts, “Home: is it just a word? Or is it something you carry within you?”

I know. 

Sydney is a contributing writer and editor for Her Campus (CU Boulder). She joined Her Campus during her first semester of freshman year and has enjoyed writing about entertainment, issues uniting the nation and personal experiences. She loves getting to empower women to explore their voices and contribute their insights. Sydney is currently a junior majoring in strategic communication and pursuing minors in journalism and creative writing. She is a Norlin Scholar, an active member of PRSSA and interned with Renewable Energy Systems' marketing department over the summer. Following undergrad, she hopes to combine her passions for creative writing, public relations strategy and clean energy to ensure a brighter future for upcoming generations. While she's not writing or studying, you can find her playing music, attending concerts around Denver, shooting senior portraits, hiking at Chautauqua or spending time with her family. She hopes to publish a novel someday.