For eighteen years, I anticipated a journey with the whereabouts unknown. For eighteen years, the idea of college was pressed into my brain until it was the only thought that consumed me. For eighteen years, I had the possibility of doing anything and going anywhere, and there was no hurry to decide - until each second of every minute felt like a pressurized ticking timebomb that could blow up my past, present, and future.
When you're young and college is just an idea, it's a million miles away in a life you're not quite yet living. College seems optimistic and magical, yet strict and stressful, but it's talked about in a way that seems practical and in the realms of possibility. What you aren't told when you're young is that college isn't the only option, or that you have to move away. You aren't told that you can choose to stay home for school, or go to trade school, and what you really aren't told is that you can take a break. Imagine - someone telling you that it actually is okay for you to step away and regroup until you figure out what's best for you.
For me, college was the only option, and not because I felt like I would be a disappointment if I didn't go (that's beside the point), but because it's what I wanted. There are more reasons I chose to go other than to pursue the career I learned about in one of my many other years of schooling. Maybe it was to continue the familiarity of schooling like I had spent most of my life, so the idea didn't completely terrify me. Why give up something you're good at? College was a chance to do something else - be someone else. College was a safe excuse to leave.
After stressful test scores and the pressure to balance my emotional, mental, and social state of being, I journeyed out into unfamiliar territory to tour different schools that I could potentially feel a sense of belonging at - a new home.
The school where I felt that real connection with was in a state I didn't already belong to, and my sense of longing was almost strong enough to encourage what I wanted. I've always felt trapped. I've felt trapped in relationships I wasn't strong enough to leave, trapped in a town I never felt I belonged to, and trapped in this mindset that made it difficult to do what I thought was best for me. Instead of choosing the school in a town I could've made my home, I worried I'd lose the home I currently had, so I chose a college close to where I could easily return.
Starting college was exciting and terrifying, and more-so any of those feelings, it was lonely. I've never experienced an aching loneliness before I moved out and changed my life in ways I didn't know how to. How do you live a life you've never lived before?
Being an "adult" and making your own decisions is exciting, yes, but it's scary when you don't know exactly what you're messing up or getting yourself into. All I thought I wanted to do was leave, and while that's still true, I don't think I left in the right direction.
Choosing a new home wasn't supposed to make me long for the one I had left. I felt an emptiness inside of me that I felt my past life could fill. I thought if I could continue to live the life I quickly ran from, I wouldn't notice how much I didn't belong to this new one.
But what if I started to belong? When my first year of college was over, I didn't feel that initial excitement to return "home". What was home? Could I have more than one? I have divorced parents, I know I can have more than one, but can "home" be a place of than an actual house? Could "home" be different people and cities, and a new sense of belonging?
I didn't mean to offend anyone from my previous familiar life when it was known that I was less than thrilled to move back, but I couldn't pretend that I was excited to come back to a town I no longer lived in with people I no longer knew. People I thought would be around forever became strangers, and quite frankly, I didn't miss anyone that didn't stick around. I couldn't force my new life into the lives that continued without me.
Returning home felt like suffocating. Returning home felt like every mistake I had ever made in this town thrown back into my face, because here, it is all I will be remembered for. Living a new "adult" life full of freedom and experience felt closed off and monitored in my newly unfamiliar childhood home. New beliefs and lifestyles felt unwelcomed and pushed aside when I returned. I felt unwelcomed and pushed aside when I returned.
I'm learning that "home" isn't a place with expectations and rules - "home" is acceptance, beliefs, and freedom while surrounding yourself with people that care about what's best for you while supporting you even when they disagree. "Home" isn't restricted to a certain number, and I'm loving to learn that I can have as many "homes" as I possibly feel comfortable in. Returning from my newly familiar home wasn't easy, but I'm learning to let every version of myself become home.