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What It’s Like When ‘Home’ Is More Than One Place

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

I always get the funniest reactions when people ask where I’m from. I have a prepared speech every time, “Well, I was born in Brooklyn, New York but the majority of my life I grew up in a small southern town in Virginia.” Some laugh when I preface this question every time, but how can I not when the place I was born in and the place I grew up in are totally different? We won’t even mention the fact that I’m Italian as well. Recently I went back to New York to see family and I was reminded of my roots. I’ve been thinking more deeply about my identity, especially with my birthday coming up. Where is home? Where do I belong? 

Post-pandemic, we saw many people flee their big cities for slower-paced, rural areas but which place is better? Growing up in a small town gave me room, literally, to run and play freely. The rural suburbs is something that I took for granted as my family growing up in the city did not get that experience. Spending time outside is so beneficial for mental and physical health and having the opportunity to learn outdoors is invaluable. Researchers claim that “increased self-esteem, quality of life and physical activity” are some of the results of spending time in nature. When you live in a slow-paced environment there are plenty of opportunities to do things outside unlike in a cemented city. I always knocked down my mom’s comments about not being able to run in a big backyard as a child — who cares when New York has so much more than grass! Sitting in my small city apartment, I realize the luxury it is to have a big backyard. Even with my voluminous grassy wonderland, there was always something missing. Spending holidays without most of my family felt wrong, sacrilegious even! While I had so much to be grateful for in my rural home, my heart longed for the bumbling city.

Once a year at Christmas time was my one vacation from the country. The tedious eight-hour drive north took me to a different dimension. Fewer and fewer farms whipped by my window and city scenes started to appear until we finally saw the piercing New York City skyline. What a relief it was to start weaving through the traffic and smelling the city air to a paradise that I could call mine. This was home. While my eyes glazed over these scenes, my parents clenched their teeth as we entered deeper into the city traffic. We left our tiny city apartment so we could stretch our legs in a rural town and run a successful Italian restaurant on a lake. I always imagined growing up in the city was better as a child. Was it really? In any big city, there is more stimulation, a more developed independence, there is always something to do. Cultural influences are at every corner and there’s a chance to be who you are. Nobody has to “fit in.” The vivacity of the city bounces off the buildings and confidence flows through our veins. Research proves that “children grow up with more confidence, independence and self-reliance” in cities.

Growing up in a place that was so far removed from the world where I always wanted to be was and still is conflicting. I grew to appreciate the conveniences and the beauty of a small town wrapped between never-ending woods and green dreamscapes. Going back to New York gives me a chance to connect with family and friends which is so important to who I am. 

When I’m home in the south I get to channel a more humble and relaxed version of myself. Driving around town feels almost like playing pretend as a kid. I drive by the local church and smile at the older ladies who taught me in school and then wave to the local fire station that we feed at our restaurant. It’s almost like Barbie world, on the outside my town appears to be cookie-cutter and overlapping. While this lifestyle kept me safe, it didn’t challenge me like the city does. New York and even Richmond allow me to be confident in myself, try new things and challenge my beliefs through my diverse friendships. To me, the city reinforces community, ironically enough. I trust myself more, I wear my clothes with more flare and I am motivated by something every day. Home is my brick house in the south with the kitchen window that looks over our backyard with the grazing deer and the sound of a lawn mower in the morning. Home is also my aunt’s house in Brooklyn with the laundry line outside and the overcrowded living room and the sirens blaring outside. For me, home will always be a harmonious split in two.  

Ariana is a fashion merchandising major and theater minor at Virginia Commonwealth University with interests in costume design and film. She is a member of the editorial team and is enthusiastic about sustainability, fashion, beauty, mental health, and current events. She loves supporting women through HC.