I grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. My parents moved there after I was born. We spent the first six months living in a double, and then moved into a bungalow house of their own, which I have spent the last 22 years of my life living in. They were drawn to Lakewood because it was an up and coming city, with excellent school ratings, and as new parents, that was very important.
About two years later, my little sister was born. I've shared bits and pieces of her story with readers and how she was extremely medically fragile with a condition called Pfieffer's Syndrome. My parents did the best they could to help me have a "normal" childhood and upbringing, though I always felt I was a part of two separate worlds, which included my school life and home life. I couldn't really talk to my friends about what was happening at home because it was too hard to explain, and I felt they wouldn't understand.
Down the street was a girl who became my best friend, though we've now grown a part due to different attitudes, values, and priorities. Ironically, my first semester at Cleveland State University, was her last semester, and every study date I tried to set up with her was cancelled last minute or forgotten about.
Two of the other girls that belonged to this group my best friend had created, bought an apartment together on the edge of Lakewood and Cleveland. They threw a Halloween party, taking place my first semester at CSU, and didn't invite me. I was so hurt because they knew that was my favorite holiday and they called me their "best friend." That's not how you treat a best friend.
Elementary school was filled with nurses in and out of my house. Middle school was the year my sister passed away and my younger brother was only a few years old. I was so insecure and mainly kept to myself, until the best friend I had mentioned before invited me to sit with her and "the group" at lunch and I finally felt accepted.
High school brought its own set of serious issues. Freshman year of high school, I joined swim team because two members of the group wanted to join, and I was so self-conscious because of my body type. I started to develop serious mental health issues. The next three years were filled with mood swings and self-destructive behavior, and my mental illness was so severe I was home-schooled for junior and senior year. I was able to graduate with a diploma, thank goodness, but missed out on many of the "traditional" experiences so many other people hold close to their hearts.
I was just grateful to just be done with high school and start a new chapter in college. I went to community college, earned my associate degree, then transferred to Cleveland State University. In my last semester, I am now living on campus, and ironically, my two roommates and the rest of my floor are all freshman. I can't complain because we get along great. Since I have the convenience of being on campus 24/7, I've been the most involved in student life and my sorority.
With living on campus and getting involved, I've begun to feel closer to the city of Cleveland than ever, and have had the chance to be a part of so much more.
The friendships I've created are lasting, genuine, reciprocal, and real. I have nothing against Lakewood. It's where I grew up, but it is not my home. There's too much loss and heartache associated with that place for me to call it home. It's merely a place to me now though I do enjoy the hidden gems and the city of Lakewood, itself. The good memories and positive friendships I made in Lakewood are precious to me.
However, with that in mind, Cleveland is more my home now, more than Lakewood ever was. And that's because home is a feeling, not a place.