During my freshman year, going home for the first time was the most bizarre experience. I was so excited to spend Thanksgiving break all cozy and surrounded by my family and pets. On the ride home, I could feel the school break start to set in. I was so ready for a relaxing week at home.
Only, when I got home, it somehow didn’t feel like home. Don’t get me wrong, I was overjoyed to see my parents and sister and fluffy cats, but there was something very strange about this home, now. I felt out of place. So many things had happened within those three months that I’d been away, and I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of things that I needed to catch up on in order to feel at home. Home seemed to be in two places now; it had been snipped in half and dispersed in equal parts in Ames and Sioux Center. I had never felt this dislocated before. I was scared -- would I feel like this for all four years of college? I had never been one for homesickness, so what was this sensation?
It wasn’t that I felt I didn’t have a home, but rather that my home was scattered. When I was at Dordt, I missed Ames, and when I was in Ames, I missed Dordt. It was an impossible riddle to solve. The only way to fix this feeling would be to be in two places at once, and modern science has yet to allow me to accomplish that.
It would be a simpler fix if I had a preference for one place over the other. If I loved Ames more than Dordt, I would relish school breaks. But, it’s just not that simple.
I’ve spoken with a few other students about this experience, and it seems that this is a surprisingly common feeling. It is especially prevalent for students’ first time home since coming to college.
The first time home was the hardest for me, and (thank goodness) it has gotten much easier to transition between Ames life and Dordt life (ba-dum-tss) as I’ve progressed throughout college. For example, here I am, sitting in my favorite hometown coffee shop (Cafe Diem, if you’re wondering; get a peppermint mocha if you’re ever here), writing a blog post. This Thanksgiving break has been such a complete turnaround from last year’s. Of course, there was a bit of a metamorphosis that had to take place the first night back in Ames, but it was nothing so strenuous as my first return.
I think this ability to transition between places quickly, and learn how to switch off school mode and switch on relax mode with ease, is an incredibly valuable skill to learn. Adapting between different environments effortlessly is something that will come in handy along the way in whatever career you have. This is one of those unexpected ways that college will prepare you for your future.
Also, this disorientation reminds me that my real home -- our true home, where we will feel complete comfort and belonging -- is not on this earth. Home in this life is malleable. It can contort, move, spread out. It is not in one place or another, because it’s shifty. Sure, you can find home in one physical place or another, or in certain people, but ultimately our sense of home is connected to our heavenly Father. I think God gave me this sense of displacement as a reminder that nowhere in this life will be my real home. My comfort is in Him, and sometimes it takes earthly discomfort for me to really realize that.
This sense of home in two separate places, equally planted but strangely different, had never crossed my mind before. So, I hope that reading this will serve as a bit of a heads’ up for soon-to-be college students, or maybe a bit of relatability for current college students experiencing the same home-identity crisis.
With that being said, I hope your Thanksgiving break has been a time of peace, family fun, and lots of good food.