How Do You Cope With Homesickness Without a Concrete Definition of Home?

The concept of homesickness on a college campus is not a foreign one. Whether you’re a first-year student adjusting to a new life or an upperclassmen who misses their family or their dog, homesickness is something you’ll inevitably come to terms with at some point. My homesickness is different than the regular case of homesickness. 

I’ve lived in six different states in my twenty years of life. I was born in Minnesota, then we moved to New Jersey for a short time, then we moved to Illinois for six years, California for four, Pennsylvania for six, and now I live in Iowa. Growing up, my parents would drive past a high school campus and tell me that was where I’d attend. It was never true until we moved to Pennsylvania when I was going into eighth grade. It was almost as if once I got comfortable with my surroundings and who I was in that place, it was time to pack the boxes and watch the place fade into the distance from the backseat of the car.  Moving from place to place as you grow up creates a strange phenomenon inside you. Where is home? How do you feel at home?

Home means an abundance of things to me. Home means the (now closed) dolphin exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo. I learned to walk there, and it was a place I sought solace from during the summer I had five surgeries at Woodwinds Hospital. Home means living down the street from Kings Park in Illinois and living three houses down from my best friend for six years. Home means packing bags and taking the RV down to the beach in California. Home means being on a swim team, surrounded by the same group of people for four years. Home means finally attending the high school I was told I would and growing into the person I wanted to be. Home means photographing high school football and hockey games. Home means concerts and Flyers games with my dad. Home means Outback Steak House with my mom on special occasions, and her cooking every other day of the week. Home means movies, food, photoshoots, planning the future, and snuggling with my closest friend Morgan in Pennsylvania. She is home to me, as well. Home means Iowa City. It means Kinnick Stadium, hockey games and men’s gymnastics meets with my camera, my best friend Emma’s apartment, always knowing there’s a place for me to be who I’ve grown into. Home means I have the ability to grow even further into the person I can be. Home means all of these things from all of these places.

In an attempt to grasp my own concept of home, I tried to find it in people. If it wasn’t in a place, maybe I could find it in the specks of gold in someone’s eyes or the car rides we took on whatever adventure that day led us to. I found homes in my family, friends, especially in my experiences with Morgan, and in the people I was (sort of) romantically involved with. Even so, I couldn’t shake the lingering feeling that something was still missing. 

I learned that home is not in a specific place or in a specific person, although people close to your heart have the ability to make you feel at home. My home is in myself. My home is the new things I learn about myself in each week, in each trial and tribulation I endure. My home is in the growth I experience in any place I reside in. Home doesn't have to be where you're from; home is where you're going from there.