As college students, the nature of where we live is transient. Since freshman year, I’ve had the slightly unsettled feeling that I shouldn’t get too comfortable because I have no way of predicting where I will end up when I graduate.
Even during college, where we sleep can change rather often. In the last three years, I have moved over a dozen times between studying on campus in Atlanta, to studying abroad in Oxford, to interning in San Francisco and Austin. I’ll move at least a few more times before I settle down to spend a few years in one place. Don’t ask me for my address, because by the time you send me something, I may not live there anymore.
We aren’t in college for long, and that knowledge combined with the nature of college life (leaving for breaks, doing something different every summer) means that any strong sense of home can be hard to come by.
Should we hang up all those photos if we’ll just be leaving in a few months?
Should we even unpack our bags if we will have to pack them again soon?
The last few months in particular for me have been full of these questions, as I’ve hopped from internship to internship in places I have never lived and where I know no one.
At first, it was immensely difficult to feel comfortable in these new cities. I found it hard to meet people or to feel as if I truly occupied where I lived. It seemed pointless to put in the effort to build relationships with the people and spaces around me if I was going to leave as quickly as I arrived.
I eventually discovered that home, instead of a permanent place of residence, is a mindset and an energy that I put out into the world. A home is a place or a person that you can relax into, feel vulnerable in, without fear or discomfort. I had to consciously allow myself to open myself up to other people, to let them set up camp in my life, to allow my heart to settle in and stay for a while instead of anxiously waiting for the day when I would have to leave again.
And just like that, people began to wander into my life. The openness I put out into the world was returned to me multiple times over. The people I met became reliable sources of support, love, and fun. I was the same to them. They, just like a comfortable home, were there for me to come back to when I ventured off to try new things.
Other simple pleasures helped me cultivate a sense of belonging and security in my transient homes. A favorite mug always sits in the kitchen cabinet. I always find places to practice yoga or to rock climb. I allow myself to hang up photos or mementos, and I bring a few “nonessential” pieces of my heart everywhere I go.
In a few short weeks, I have to go back to Atlanta to finish my final year of my undergraduate studies. It would be easier to go back if I hadn’t put down firm roots in the places I have been, but I know that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will always be thankful to the people and cities that have allowed me to occupy a little piece of them for a few months. I know that if and when I return, it will feel like coming home.