Short and to the point: It’s hard to be away.
So I hope I am not repeating myself too much, but as you may know, I went away to school. Seven hours from home and pretty much all of civilization for that matter. From my family, friends, boyfriend….my whole community. Compared to the bustle of the northwest suburbs of Chicago, this university-focused town right off the interstate is all but dead.
I am finding more and more as the months pass that I miss my home. I have to read the newspaper here in Columbia for my news writing class, and you don’t really notice how much you know about your home until you are away from it. I am so used to Chicagoland happenings that I can’t wrap my mind around another cities’ issues. It’s even strange to be away from Chicago politics, although things are much less corrupt and eventful here.
Being in Columbia, it’s easy to get caught up in college life and college gossip and college events, but sometimes I will just flash to a moment from high school and I feel so out of place. You almost have to redefine yourself when you leave your home, because without that backdrop and history to bring with you, you lose a huge factor of your identity. I am a different person in Columbia. No one here knows about my high school experiences and family unless I tell them. It gives me a measure of control, yet also a measure of anonymity, which is the scary part. For the first time in my life, I control how I am portrayed to others; my family or past actions have very little bearing on what people think or know about me here.
I think leaving the nest, so to speak, is the first real step of my adult life, of my career. I am networking, making friends, making connections, and getting my foot in the door at the J-school and our school publications. What I do defines me, not what I did. Who I am defines me; not who I was. I like being able to set my own path, chart my own way. I just don’t like that it comes at the expense of everything I am used to.
To bring some cohesion to this rambling, random post, a phone call with my very close friend inspired me and the title of my post. We listened to this song together at the end of our senior year, and inexplicably, we both started tearing up. It could be chalked up to the fact that we are both romantics, but really I think we just could identify with the year ahead. We both left home. We both left for programs that will work us harder than we have ever worked. We both left with some friends, but without many. And we both left with the motivation to have our names recognized and our accomplishments acknowledged.
Leaving my home was hard; the hardest thing I have had to do so far in my life. But despite the pain of losing the environment that defined me for eighteen years, I still have all the same people around me, albeit emotionally rather than physically. The emotional part is encouraging and supportive; it’s just the physical absence that saddens me sometimes. It is difficult to be without people who know you, inside and out, to not have them to turn to when all you want is understanding, not questions.
Looking ahead, I can’t say that it won’t be difficult to create a new life here. I can even say right now that it is not easy. I just take comfort in the fact that I have somewhere to return to. Somewhere I am familiar with. Somewhere that knows me. Somewhere I love, and somewhere where people love me.