Updated: Aug 25, 2020
If my memory serves me correctly, I have lived in eight houses throughout my eighteen
years of existence. Some were houses my family owned in Pune, India, and some were rented apartments in other cities, both in India and in various other countries on the globe. I have my favourites of these houses set in stone for how they shaped my childhood, but somehow, nothing has ever been like the home I found in college.
I am eighteen years old, a freshman at the University of Michigan. I live in a dorm room with a girl I had never met before I moved in. She tells me that the Michigan state motto is ‘si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice’, which translates to ‘if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you’ and it makes me think about how beautiful this place is.
I'm often sitting on the field underneath the third tree watching this sunset, when I notice the changing hues of the leaves around me, something I have never seen before, and I think, it feels so surreal that this is my home now.
It feels unnatural to have a sudden surge of freedom and a community bathroom that is, more often than not, fairly messy, but the sunsets on the giant field outside my dorm make up for it, the ones where everything around turns into liquid gold and then the colors of the sky form a conglomerate of pinks, purples and dark blues. I'm often sitting on the field underneath the third tree watching this sunset, or maybe I’m walking back from a class that made me think about the world and its people, when I notice the changing hues of the leaves around me, something I have never seen before, and I think, it feels so surreal that this is my home now.
What is in a home?
At seventeen years old, I leave the country I call my home and move halfway across the world for college. In an airplane thirty thousand feet in the air, I feel as though I am in a peculiar state of limbo for my home. Over six cities and eight houses, I figure that I should be used to the feeling of leaving a home and building a new one from scratch. It is a story as old as time - you spend enough nights in a place, you grow used to it; you sleep enough nights in a bed and you learn to be comfortable in it. I have grown all too familiar with fluidity that displacement demands.
But this time, it is different. My family will be moving once again, to a different house in a city four hours away from Pune, but it will be while I am away. I leave for college knowing I will not be returning to the place I am leaving, but I do not yet know where I am going, and I don’t know what I will be returning to. The transition into college itself is not very difficult for me - I am enthralled by the beauty of this small town and all the newfound freedom I have. But there are subtle things I need to change, things I did not realize would make me feel so alien. I must unlearn the metric system, practice writing my dates starting with the month, and scratch out all the extra letters in my spellings. People speak of T.V. shows and advertisements I am unfamiliar with in accents I do not recognize. In my humanities classes, we discuss American presidents and American political movements, and I sit silently because I have nothing to contribute. And on the rare occasion that I do feel homesick, I feel homesick for a home that no longer exists to me.
I have developed a hunch that it is not the physical cement walls that made the house I found in college a home, it is an inexplicable, intangible…feeling that seeped out of the walls, cooked up by the memories created there, the laughter and sleepless nights of finals week and amber fall leaves.
Yet, if there is anything I have learned from deconstructing any trace of my existence from these eight houses and fitting my lives spent in each of them into mere cardboard boxes, it is that you can build a home from scratch anywhere, as long as the people that make it are always around. I have developed a hunch that it is not the physical cement walls that made the house I found in college a home, it is an inexplicable, intangible… feeling that seeped out of the walls, cooked up by the memories created there, the laughter and sleepless nights of finals week and amber fall leaves. I do not yet know at what point this transformation of house to home occurs, and I am certain I will be trying to figure this out for years to come. Maybe I will finally know what exactly a home is when I finally have one of my own. What I do know is that I felt this feeling in the first place I called home, in a small apartment in Pune, India, and it has been following me around ever since.
It feels so surreal that this is my home now.