Going home at the end of my first semester was bittersweet. As I filled up my suitcase, I packed away the people, places, and routines that had become a part of my daily life. It would be seven weeks until I returned to them. Once I completed my last final, though, I beamed at the sight of my mom’s car pulled up to the lightly-frosted Green. Suddenly, all I could think of was curling up in my childhood bedroom, the endless holiday baking about to ensue, and a houseful of siblings coming from three different states. I was ready to go home.
Home, for me, is a little town just south of Pittsburgh–the same town my dad grew up in. Although my parents moved a handful of times after college, they came back to his hometown, just in time for me to start kindergarten. My earliest memories are tied to that yellow house on the corner. Pulling into the driveway this past December, I envisioned a younger, more toothless me, saying “cheese!” for the annual first day of school pictures with my siblings. Then, a seemingly distant me who posed in the yard in my high school cap and gown six months ago. Stepping inside felt like stepping into a time machine. It felt familiar. It felt safe.
At first. Then, I noticed the freshly painted cream walls of our once bright yellow kitchen. My reflection in the refrigerator stared clearly back at me, where the door was once cluttered with photos, report cards, and cheesy magnets. All the signs of three unruly kids living here had faded.
That was the point, though. The house was ready for a new family to take over. As the youngest child, I knew that this was all part of the agreement. Once I went off to college, my parents would downsize and move out East. We had talked about it numerous times, and in fact, I really wanted them to. After all, they would be living much closer to UD. I underestimated, though, how strange it would be to leave behind my beloved yellow house.
For the next seven weeks, as I cleaned out my childhood bedroom and painted over my quarantine-era mural, I felt like I was collecting “lasts.” Would this be our last family movie night in this basement? Would this be my last stroll to the coffee shop down the street? Stripping down the wall of photos in my room, my mind flickered through fourteen years worth of memories here. I slid them into the front of a photo album. In the back, I added my photos from the fall semester in Delaware. In that moment, both felt like home to me.
Curled up in my childhood bedroom that night, I did not have some big “home is where the heart is” realization. I already had this when I went off to college. Instead, I realized just how seamlessly I had adjusted to life in Delaware. I had spent so much of my life worrying about the day I finally left home. I didn’t want to imagine a morning without breakfast with my mom, or without my best friend picking me up for school. I thought my days would feel so empty.
Now, I wake up to my roommate’s fifteen different alarms and early walks to Brew Haha!. Newark has not taken Pittsburgh’s place in my heart. My heart is just that much more full. With all the new opportunities to make friends, connect with professors, try new classes, join new clubs, and find my place in the UD Honors community, I couldn’t possibly focus on all I was missing. Rather, I saw how much I was gaining. It was because of my experiences in Pittsburgh that I was prepared for this next phase of my life in Newark. In the same way, my time at UD will prepare me for what comes next.
I am not afraid to let go of my childhood home now. Before, I said that this transition felt not sad, not scary, but strange. Now, I see that it shouldn’t feel strange at all. It’s natural. Change is natural. My little yellow house on the corner will always be home to me, just like Newark will always be home to me. I am not losing these homes, these safe spaces. It’s just time for finding a new place to call home.