Nearer to Thee

I remember the first time I calculated exactly how far away I was from home; the thin red line drawn from Southern California to my little town in Ohio seemed to stretch on and on, pulling my heart along with it. 2,362.1 miles. I am 2,362.1 miles from home. I spent a few days in my first semester wondering what I was doing in this different world. My friends all stayed in Ohio, comfortably nestling themselves 2 or 3 hours from home. They went to university with their closest friends and visited other local colleges on the weekends. Prior to May 1st last year, I was going to room with my lifelong best friend at my state’s college. And then, in a whirlwind of unexpected change and chance opportunities, I found myself here. I loved my new school and my new friends, but it wasn’t home. I wasn’t home. I spent the next few months trying to find out what I was missing, what it was that made my bedroom in Ohio so cozy and my dorm here so foreign. 

I realized late one night as I was drifting off to sleep just what that missing piece was; as I looked at the bookshelf at the foot of my bed, I found my eyes drifting above the sparse library to the bare wall. I was looking for the religious painting that hung there in my home; a delicately hand-painted Biblical quote decorated elegantly with baby blue lilies. The next morning I called my mother and asked her to collect my cross, painting, holy water, and rosary and mail them to me. A few days later, my care package arrived. I now realize why I never accepted my new house as my home: I had left a core part of myself back in Ohio. Although I never lost my faith, my cross-country journey had preoccupied my mind so much that my heart forgot itself. Since these material reminders of my religion have joined me in my new home, I have begun to care for my spiritual self much, much more. 

It is easy to focus too heavily on your academics and to forget to cultivate the things in your life that truly bring you joy. For me, this was God. I focused so heavily on maintaining good grades that I asked myself not whether I was happy but whether I was successful. I left all of my roots at home, and I forgot to search for home where it has always existed- within. Now, when I look at my makeshift altar I don’t think of the thousands of miles I am from home. Instead, I think of the nearness I am to my Creator. I think of the soft, aromatic beads that glide gently between my fingers and the silver, intricately designed cross above my eyes. And, when I fall asleep at night, my heart aches a little less for the ties that call it softly back home.