I wonder about the people who post “going home!” as their Facebook status on either end of winter break. I wonder what they really mean.
I’m not confused by what’s probably intended—the excitement of going back, I assume—but I’m perplexed by the implications of the wording. I want to ask, “what exactly do you mean by a home in two places?” But I don’t, because it’s Facebook.
Two homes: one at school, and one at, well, home. Both offer a familiar blend of comfort and routine—of belonging. Back home, where we rest our achy brains by sleeping all night and all morning. Breakfast for lunch anyone? The TV is on, the parents are out, feet are up on the couch; TV is still on (“I’m sooo bored”), is it dinnertime yet? Rinse and repeat until finally a month goes by and then we’re aching in a different way, aching for Bowdoin, for people we can only describe as family.
We’re aching for flannel, the Bowdoin livery, and for thorne’s favorite Honolulu tofu. Back on campus and “it’s sooo cold,” but the people are warm. Everyone says, “How was your break?” in unison, and then, “Good” in unison, which we already know. We all did the same thing, unless you were—don’t say it—productive, in which case shame on you, go back to the dark hole from whence you came. We’re back on the grind, awake all night, awake in the early morning—well, the science majors are—running to Moulton before they stop making eggs to order, going to class, prodded along only by the knowledge that it’s Wednesday and we will be merciless with the sundae bar.
These are descriptions of homes, of our geographical center of gravity. We, as college students, oscillate between these two stations, and we connect them because they offer us the comfort of dependable routines, albeit routines calibrated to different intensities. At home and at school, we feel similarly obligated (“It is my duty to finish this history paper/Arrested Development: Season Three”) and empowered (“I am furthering my education/my education in Arrested Development”), but most importantly we feel familiar with the people, places and things. Perhaps this is why we claim, sometimes, to have two homes.
But I have to disagree with my Facebook friends. Leaving aside the functional usages of the word, isn’t a home defined by its assignment to a single place? A place of genesis, of solace, of family, or even in another person, the home is evidence of itself. It is separate from all other places on the basis that it is unlike all other places. Its specialness seems inseparable from its singularity, and it cannot be pieced apart, divided and distributed. Perhaps it can be picked up and plopped elsewhere, but to multiply it would be to obliterate it.
It’s dangerous to cage subjective concepts into tidy definitions, but this singularity clings to me with the essence of something inherently true. And to ignore it might be to ignore the frightening reality that our lives are making the jump from one stage to another, from one home to another, and that our suspension in mid-air is where we find ourselves at College.
So I wonder: Is the feeling of having two homes the feeling of having no home at all? At this exciting, liminal space in our lives—ex-teenagers, pre-adults—we don’t always notice the tug of our roots as we leave them behind us, and it may be a while before we see that they’ve snapped. I’ve been feeling homeless lately, but it isn’t bad, it’s exciting; it is movement and progress.
Bowdoin has offered me “a home in all lands and all ages.” I’d revise that. Bowdoin has offered me belonging in one place as I move on to others.