“Aren’t you excited to go home?”
“One more day until we head home!”
“I can wait to go home.”
Home. The word has been ringing in my ears for the entire semester, but like a buzzing fly that won’t go away it seems to have gotten louder and more annoying in recent days. I’ve swatted at it, lunged for it and attempted to smash it under my foot. I’ve scooped its struggling body off the floor with a tissue and carried it towards the trash can like a pallbearer at a stranger’s funeral.
People attach the word home to towns and familiar foods and happy memories, but to me home has always been wherever I am at a certain moment. Home was my hand-painted bedroom in the basement of my parent’s house and then my crowded dorm room on the third floor of Moore Residence Hall. Home was my white Chevrolet Trailblazer full of field hockey gear and old CDs. Home was a quiet motel right off of the sandy beaches in Englewood, Florida.
At the beginning of the semester, I was asked how I felt about leaving home and I honestly didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay in my mom’s house with my little brother and my cats and my record player and my two pillows. Now I am told I have to go back home, but home has moved. Home is Harlaxton Manor, Refectory food, complaining about the rain, overflowing shuttles, pizza calls in the telephone booth, and so much more.
Home is my friends’ faces when we meet in the customs line, fresh off the plane. Home is the maze of ruin pubs in Budapest and somewhat sketchy hostels on the outskirts of Paris. Home is taking a train across the UK, trying Gelato in five different countries and making a British family your own.
While I have found a home in all of these places and little moments, the most important home I found was inside myself. Throughout my time at Harlaxton, I didn’t feel any huge changes, but upon reflection, I’ve noticed the many ways I’ve grown and developed. I have more confidence in myself and in my abilities to lead and to survive in the world. I no longer wallow in bad moments or feelings, but instead pick myself up and move on.
I feel better about who I am as a person and I feel as if I’m finally gaining some direction in my life. I am now at home in my own skin. I’ve embraced my tears as well as my smiles, my bad hair days with my good, and my sweatpants with my formal skirts.
I am at home in myself for the first time in my life. While being abroad for the semester cemented this feeling together, it was the pieces from all my previous homes that made up the person I am now and the home I have created for myself.
I’ve changed directions and now carry the word “home” to the window. It writhes momentarily, but manages to flutter off the tissue and towards the manicured hedges of Harlaxton’s back garden. Tomorrow I will leave the manor for the last time. As its looming grandeur fades into the distant English countryside, I will think of home, how I will continue to build it up inside myself everywhere I go, and how Harlaxton helped make me, me.