August 22nd. When the day finally rolled around, every second I had spent waiting for it through junior and senior year of high school seemed to compact itself into the two-hour drive between New York City and Radnor Township. I was seventeen. Anticipation crawled like ants across my skin as I watched the Freedom Tower grow smaller and smaller in the distance. I was itching to get out, and as we passed the tollbooth into New Jersey, I was halfway there.
I have never been the type to comfort in being in one place for too long. I am victim to wanderlust- one of the most important factors in choosing my top colleges, bolstering Villanova further as my dream school, was distance. I crave new places. I crave change. In my mind, what greater difference was there than that between chaotic urban life in New York City and tranquil Pennsylvanian suburbia? In my heart of hearts, despite living all seventeen years of my life in New York with no prior exposure to living with a moment to spare, I was convinced I was meant to be there. There lived no doubt in my mind that I was ready for the drastic switch; resilience was one of my most powerful traits, and it was sure to thrive in this abrupt situation of change.
The redundancy of day-to-day life irks me to no end, and after a summer of waiting, move-in day electrified me. I remember standing in front of my family's rented red van, hands in my pockets, brown eyes alight with a glow that challenged even the sun on that cloudless summer day, and laughing when my mother asked why I looked like I wasn't going to miss her. Although I deeply care for my family, when I returned alone to my dorm that day, there was not an ounce of my soul that throbbed with missing them. It didn't even occur to me to do so. I was alive with the idea of the new experiences waiting in the mist for me. It'll kick in later, my mother warned me. Yet, as the days went by, the weeks melting into each other beneath loads of schoolwork piling atop my shoulders, I noticed I still wasn't bothered.
Friends around me often spoke of their own homesickness. Some talked to their families every day over the phone or through facetime, but all at least texted. For the first two and a half months of school, my mother and I barely spoke apart from necessary text messages about finances and my dog. When fall break began to approach on October 13th, I almost dreaded it.
Villanova had become more than just my home away from home. It had become my home.
Yet, much to my surprise, fall break was a whirlwind of a fantastic week. From Friday, October 13th, to Sunday, October 21st, I spent every single day out with friends, rampaging across the city and eating as much food as I possibly could no matter how sick it made me feel the next day. I saw my grandmother, my parents, my twin sister and, of course, my dog. I baked. I watched my favorite television shows (The Pioneer Women and, courtesy of this break, American Horror Story Cult on Netflix). When Sunday rolled around, I followed my dad through the pandemonium of Penn Station at 11:00 in the morning and boarded the NJ Transit Train to Trenton. I had two more trains ahead of me to catch, but as I settled into my seat, thinking of all the things I needed to do when I got back to campus, something uninvited settled in me. Something devoid. Something throbbing.
I stepped foot in my dorm at 3:34 p.m. and by 10:00 that night, I had cried five times. I cried myself into a nap. I cried watching YouTube in a failed attempt to distract myself. I cried twice in the shower. I cried on the phone with my best friend, confessing an emptiness inside of me I couldn't understand.
"Why am I feeling this way?" I said between tearful pauses. "I loved it here. What happened over a week?"
"It's okay," she soothed. "You're probably just homesick."
There I was- the too-cool-to-cry college kid who thought she had it all together finally stricken by homesickness just as the epidemic was beginning to pass. I was almost disappointed in myself for letting it get to me. I had avoided it for so long, so it only frustrated me trying to understand why, after all this time; after hearing everyone's stories and still not encountering any understanding of my own; after almost three months of school, I was finallyhomesick. It made no sense to me. I ambled through the rest of that night with a depressive fog shrouding my mind, which would cling to the sides of my skull for the next couple of days. Yet, despite my disheartened state, my resilience managed to power its way through the haze and keep me going nonetheless. Though a struggle, I plundered through my classes, got back to working out on the schedule I had developed in the months leading up to break, and began eating much healthier than whatever I could scavenge on the New York City streets I had left behind.
I can confidently say I am already out of the rut, ready to reembrace the home I had created here before. I have rediscovered just what I love about this campus and why it became my home to me so quickly. What I have learned, however, in the few short days I shared my bed with homesickness, is that no matter how much I love change and the new experiences that call my name elsewhere, I love my family and friends more. No matter where I call my home, my family and friends will always be my true one. Home is where the heart is, after all- yet another thing I learned, in the moment I hung up the phone after talking to my best friend, is that no matter where I go or where I am, they will always be with me.
So, it's time to be resilient. Homesickness, get the hell out of my bed- I need my rest to take on whatever new experiences are waiting for me tomorrow.