I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of a home.
A few weeks into college I felt a little lost, a little stuck in limbo one might say. I’d left my house in Richmond behind and moved to a place that was completely new in every way, and I felt all of a sudden that there might not be any place out there that truly was my home. As much as I loved Richmond, there were always parts of it that made me feel like I didn’t quite belong, and in the confusion and over-stimulation that was the beginning of college, I wasn’t sure if UNCA was really my home either.
I think in my head I imagined home as a tangible place, a place that I’d step foot in and know immediately was where I belonged. I longed for that feeling so strongly it made my heart ache, and yet I constantly found myself disappointed when it wouldn’t seep into my awaiting heart the moment I entered a place I had hope for. I wanted so badly to belong somewhere, to know I was in a place where I was valued, where I was loved, and where I was simply comfortable. I worried that place might not even be out there.
I suppose that’s why I felt a little hesitant upon heading back to Richmond for my school's Fall Break, not knowing if the place I’d grown up would feel like home, or if it ever had. I worried about being back in a strange, semi-familiar place, and I didn’t know who I’d run into there—and who they’d expect me to be.
However, from the moment I walked in the back door of my house on that gray Saturday afternoon, I immediately felt a sense of comfort. My house smelled like the rainstorm outside as it always did - the raindrops reflecting off our wood-paneled walls - and there was my dog lounging on our little dog-hair-covered couch as if she was simply waiting for me to come snuggle with her. There was my family—my sister who I’d missed more than anything, my mom who understands me in ways no one else does, my best friend with whom I feel completely whole—and I felt valued, loved, and comforted all at the same time. I was home.
Strangely, though, I felt there was still a part of me missing. I couldn’t figure out why exactly at first, but as my time passed in Richmond, my heart began to ache for those North Carolina mountains, for the botanical gardens behind my dorm, for my other little family in Asheville. I missed staying up late and watching movies in the den with all of my friends around me, I missed grabbing late-night pizza and coffee and kicking ourselves for it the next day, and I missed my new friends who had already proven to me just how many good people exist in the world. I realized that while I was home, I had another home hours away in beautiful Asheville.
I think I realized, however, more than I missed my dorm room, or the quad, or my Geology lecture hall, I missed the people in Asheville; the friends I’d made who make me feel like the best version of myself. Richmond was the same way—as much as I was overjoyed to be back in my river city, what made it feel like home were the people there, the people who I knew would always be there whether I was near or far. In this way, I suppose I could say I have homes all over the place—spots where I’m surrounded by people who make me happy, who make me whole.
So I think that’s what home is—a place where you are valued, loved, and comfortable. These feelings aren’t necessarily tangible, which is why home could exist anywhere and everywhere, places where you feel completely and undeniably yourself. People make a home more than a place, and I’m grateful for my homes all over the world; for the people I love who make them so.