From The Girl Who Has More Than One Home

From The Girl Who Has More Than One Home

It’s nice to have more than one place be home.

Before I last left Illinois, I said to my mom, “I know I’m leaving home. But it also feels like I’m going home.”

It wasn’t the first time that I had felt that way, but it was the first time that I felt comfortable saying it out loud. I slipped up, once, a few years ago, and while talking about returning to school at Iowa City used the phrase “going home”, and immediately felt guilty about it, because Illinois, where my parents were, that was home.

Mom told me then, “It’s okay. Iowa can be home, too.”

But I didn’t really believe her until I found home a third time, at Disney World, and realized that I was as eager to return to Iowa City as I was to return to Peoria, and that I was just as strongly sad to leave Orlando.

Home, I realized, is not simply where you were born and raised. Home is where you live your life. It’s where you eat and work, and where the people you interact with are. Home is where you feel love and purpose. And that can be more than one place.

For me, currently, it’s four places.

First, there’s my home in central Illinois, where I grew up, where I have never doubted that I belonged. Then there’s my home at the University of Iowa, where I spent four years learning and developing routines and getting to know wonderful friends. Third is my Disney home, here where I work with the people around me to support stories and create happiness, and it feels like I’m doing what I’m meant to do with my life.

I found my fourth home just the other day. Or I should say, I came home, because I’d been there before but I hadn’t realized until I came back to it that it was a home.

It had been a very long time since I had been to Shabbat services, but I finally have a job with Friday nights off, so a couple weeks ago I found a local conservative synagogue and tried it out.

There weren’t a lot of people there, mostly people older than me with very young children. I had never been there before, and I didn’t know any of the congregants. But not long into the service, as we sang the prayers together, it started to feel like home.

That feeling caught me a little by surprise. When I was little, I heard other Jews refer to Israel as “home,” and when my family took a trip there I expected it to feel like home – but it didn’t. It was cool, certainly, and I’m glad we went when we did. But unfamiliar cities, landscapes, and archaeological sites didn’t feel like home.

I concluded, erroneously, that despite my love of my religion, Jewish places wouldn’t feel like home to me. Certainly Jewish overnight camp hadn’t felt like home, either, with the other girls in my cabin alternately bullying and ignoring me.

But the synagogue – the high ceiling and the soft pews, the language and tunes I had spent years learning, even the children running around and refusing to pay attention – that was familiar. That was loving. That was home. Even though I didn’t personally know anyone in the room, even though some of the melodies were unfamiliar, it felt like I was where I should be. It felt like I was home.

And it’s so nice to have more than one place be home.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.


Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.


In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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