Going home for Thanksgiving break always proves to be an interesting experience. Trying to find a balance between seeing both of my parents, seeing my best friends and seeing my family during the holiday season always becomes a challenge. Assignments loom, while students try not to burn out and attempt to relax on during the holidays. Traveling takes up more time than expected, while sleeping takes less time than desired.
With the lack of a true fall break, Thanksgiving is the first time that most college students go home, if they can. They pack suitcases filled with dirty laundry and sometimes travel hundreds of miles to see their families and friends. Returning home always brings back a barrage of memories — where you went on your first date, used to have soccer practice, where you went to meet up with your friends on the weekend. Home is the biggest holder of memories — the pillows I’ve cried into, the walls that heard me fight with my brothers and laugh with my friends, the doors that slammed and opened back up again.
Last Thanksgiving, I was mourning the possibility of something I could never call mine, and the boy who had moved on. This year, I spent my time laughing with my friends and melting away the days with stories of things that happened over the last semester. Being away for so long always means reflecting when you’re back.
As a freshman, seeing your friends and ex-classmates feels like coming home. Going home freshman year felt like I had never left. My room was left in pristine condition, however messy, and everything in my neighborhood stayed the same. Some freshmen are less fortunate, and fall to the phenomenon of the “turkey drop,” wherein those in long-distance relationships break-up with their significant others. This generally happens because the distance becomes too much, and also because the call of “freedom” in college is too strong. For some, this can be the first taste of changing relationships when coming home. Although everything seemed it would be the same when they returned home, some shifts and changes were already taking place.
Coming home as a college senior is a different experience completely. It is daunting and nostalgic at the same time. You know that you are not the same person who left for college all those years ago. You and your classmates are at the dawn of graduation, so rooms are filled with talks of job offers and potential relocations to different corners of the country. You’ve kept in touch with those who are important to you, and many of the people you knew in high school fell by the wayside. There’s nothing wrong with that.
During Thanksgiving break, I was informed that it was customary to meet up with friends the night before Thanksgiving. Going out on “Thanksgiving eve” meant that I was back in a room with people I hadn’t seen since my graduation. When we left our hometown, we had a lot of things in common. Many of us had grown up together and had known each other since preschool. Our parents had worked together, rode the same train into the city and went to the same charity fundraisers. We had all lived similar lives. Being back in that room with them made me realize that we had all lived a million lives since then. I saw boys who I used to have crushes on, exes talking with each other, missed opportunities, regrets and fallen friendships. But I also saw past friends and classmates who had all changed in the past years, who had moved out of the town we all shared and into their own.
Going home always comes with its own challenges, especially if your home is hard to go home to. I do take it for granted that the most challenging part of my experience is that I have to make time for both of my parents because they are divorced. An important part of going home is recognizing that a lot of the relationships you’ve had have changed. People fall out of your life as easy as they come into it. You may not be as close as you were with your teammates in high school or with the boy you used to sit next to in math class, but that’s because distance and experience change who we are. The relationships themselves change as well.
Finding ‘home’ is about learning that is isn’t always the physical place; rather, it takes many forms. Walking around my neighborhood, I took notice of everything that was different — new pathways and trees added, a hole where a house was to be built, the browning leaves that had fallen to the ground to line the streets. My relationships within the town had changed, but so had the town itself. Home is the solace we find in the relationships that we share, nurture and grow with.