Behind the question of what your name is, "where are you from" is easily the second most popular question to ask someone and it sometimes seems more important to college students and New York City dwellers.
Maybe it's because colleges and NYC are both huge melting pots for people from hundreds of different towns and at least a dozen states/countries, but the question never gets old. What does seem to age is the question of "home." When people ask "oh, where's home" before a break, I almost never know how to answer. When I leave school for the summer, I don't know if I'm leaving home or if I'm going home.
I've slowly noticed that my friends and I adapt the word to the conversation. "Home" is where we live now in the present when we are out seeing a play, food shopping, or at work. I will say I'm coming "home" when I've gone to my parent's house for the weekend and am on my way back to my dorm. When peers from school ask what my summer plans are, I say that I am going back to New Jersey--I don't say that I am going home. Then when friends or family from New Jersey ask when I'm coming back, I say I'm coming home on whatever date it is that time.
Being in college is like living some weird double life, that isn't anything new. But ever since coming back to school last summer I have personally felt more conflicted about where my home is. If we go with where I live with my parents, it is New Jersey. If I commit to calling where I live most of the year, then home is definitely school. If home is where my heart is, then I'm scattered across states and countries because home spans to reach where every single one of my loved ones are at any given moment, it reaches what few corners of the world I've seen and fallen in love with--it makes it all more confusing.
And then people ask where you want to live after college, I'm sure we've all heard that question, too. How do you answer? I would love to live in London, I've never even been. I have friends who think I'd love San Francisco. I could have a romantic interest by that time that sweeps me away to God-knows-where. I hopefully would have a job to keep me afloat and where would that be? Would I commute from my parent's house until I can move into my own place or find a roommate, as so many people in our generation seem to be doing?
What do you think you're going to do? Where is home going to be?
I've met a few people who are far luckier than I, they've seen more places and met more people, experienced cultures I can only dream of experiencing at this point of my life--people I wish I were as well-traveled as because my wanderlust is deafening and I realize that maybe we're all just homeless right now.
We're at an age where our strongest commitments are to our major--and at my school that's somewhere between 8-12 classes depending on what poison you chose--and our student loans (if we have them). Our parents and guardians, if we were fortunate, had commitments to us and to their (hopefully) permanent and stable jobs. They made homes because they had to, and they became home to us until we no longer needed to be there. They were like the mama bear, for all intents and purposes, who always returns to her same den with her new cubs year after year while her cubs from seasons past go out and make new dens elsewhere.
And maybe we're meant to be homeless, we're just using an empty word to describe our multitude of living environments and that's why experience and travel are so important to us right now. We have to find that job, that family, that perfect location before we can make a home.
Maybe home is just where a settled heart is, and when we find something worth putting our whole heart into, we'll truly find home.