If you’re one of the many people I met during Wildcat Welcome, you probably got a somewhat odd and complicated response from me to your seemingly straightforward question of “Where are you from?” The answer probably went something like:
“So I’m not really from anywhere — I move around a lot, so it’s hard to say. I went to high school in Hawaii for three years, but my parents moved to Virginia this summer, so I guess it’s one of the two.”
Because if you’re a military brat like me, you never really have a straight answer to these kind of questions.
Growing up, moving almost every one or two years was the norm for me. I’m starting to run out of fingers on my hand to count every place I’ve lived. While some people hear this and say, “Wow, that must be so hard for you,” I enjoyed this lifestyle. I still do. I view it as an adventure that can take you all over the world.
But that isn’t to say that there aren't any drawbacks to this way of life. When I moved to each new state, I was constantly thrust into the unfamiliar environment of trying to make friends, and would have to get acclimated to a new school and social life all over again. Just as soon as I would start to feel comfortable, it would be time to move again, leaving behind those budding friendships and communities before they could deepen.
So as you can probably imagine, it’s a little confusing trying to figure out where my home really is. It could be where I’ve lived the longest (Texas for three years), or most recently (Hawaii), or where my parents now live (Virginia), or even the place I liked the most (Is all of them an option?).
To be completely honest, I don’t know “where I’m from.” This never really bothered me until recently, and I must admit it has launched a bit of an identity crisis.
The more I heard someone tell stories about their home and how much they miss its weather, their friends and everything else that makes a hometown so special, the stronger I felt a dull aching inside, wishing I had a home to tell my own hometown stories too.
At first I was confused by this feeling — I thought it was homesickness, but I couldn’t be sure. I dwelled on this feeling, and the more I thought about it, the more I believed that what I’m experiencing isn’t so much homesickness as it is a longing for a home to belong to.
To be clear, this isn’t something that is unique to just me or military brats. This desire of belonging to a larger community beyond yourself is simply a part of human nature. It just makes it a little harder when you’re never somewhere long enough to do so.
I’ve heard people say over and over again that college is supposed to become your new home, and yet everyday I sleep in a room that doesn’t quite feel like my own. I can make my way around campus with my eyes closed (okay, maybe just South campus), but it all still feels so unfamiliar. I’ve made new friends and met so many people, yet it seems like a fleeting moment, soon to pass.
Not that any of this is a bad thing. I’ve had a fun and hectic first quarter and am beginning to get used to the chilling weather (although everyone keeps telling me it only gets worse from here).
But I guess the question is: Is Northwestern home?
Right now, it doesn’t feel like it yet — perhaps it’s too soon to tell. It all still feels so new...and purple...and cold, so very cold.
But it could feel like home, I have faith that it will. For now, however, no, I don’t have a solid answer for where my home is, and I’m afraid I’ll have to keep giving the same complicated answer from Wildcat Welcome until I figure it out.
Maybe in a few years — ideally within the next four — I might actually have an answer. And, hopefully, it’ll become a place where I’ve lived the longest, most recently, and liked the best. While it might be home to the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced, it also has some of the prettiest summers. And the coolest people. And Willie the Wildcat.
So, who knows? Maybe Northwestern will become the home I’ll finally become homesick for.