Thanksgiving Break marked my first time returning to my hometown since the beginning of college. My personal “homecoming” marked a lot of firsts for me, actually: my first plane ride alone, my first time seeing friends and family since I went to college, and my first time getting lost in an airport (and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last).
My time away from Ohio University was fairly jam-packed. I spent a lot of time catching up with friends from high school, visiting family, and quite frankly, stepping away from my homework to relax a bit.
Being back in Oswego, Illinois was a breath of fresh air. But, at the same time, it felt strange to revisit my hometown after being away for so long. My bedroom no longer felt like my own (did I really get that much room to myself?) and I no longer felt the same resentment towards my hometown that I once did.
I feel a split in me now. I have a home in Athens and Oswego. And that split is somehow a beautiful thing. I have found that I can create a place of solace and comfort where ever I go. It’s not the location that makes the home; it’s the people.
The people in Oswego will always hold a place in my heart. Now, they just need to scoot over a bit to make room for my newfound family in Athens.
The video below shows my experience of going home for the first time: the epiphany I had about what home is, the beauty of my friends and family, and the travels I had commuting between my two home states. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my break.
I really hate to admit this, but I’m going to anyway. I miss you.
I never really thought I would miss you. Yes, I miss my family terribly, and it’s not easy being seven hours away from the people who know me best. It shouldn’t have been this hard to leave when feel no personal connection to you. Yet, it was, and at first, I didn’t understand why. You are the typical American suburb: chain restaurants line the streets, cookie-cutter houses are home to seemingly perfect families, and everyone is content with their 9-to-5. When I was with you, I could never help but long for more. There was a whole world packed with giant cities and people to meet. There were people to meet and mountains to move. I vowed to only return to Illinois if I was living in Chicago. I needed to be somewhere that was bigger than me. I needed to feel that I was actively contributing to society, not just going through the motions everyday. That’s all the suburbs seemed to offer: passivity.
It took me a while to understand what changed my feelings towards you. I felt nothing scrolling through social media and seeing posts from people back home. I didn’t care if you won the football game. That was, until homecoming arrived in your vicinity, and soon after, in mine.
When I was with you, homecoming was a constant. It was something I could rely on to always be there year after year. I would dress for the spirit days with my friends and the school song seemed to be ingrained in my head. But most importantly, I loved the homecoming parade. I loved smiling until my face hurt while spinning my flag in the marching band. I loved creating a flag routine to our school song and watching something I made come to life on the streets. Parades were a part of me. In a way, I guess that makes you a part of me.
It was hard to let go of my past homecomings when I was faced with my first homecoming here at OU. The whole idea of homecoming at OU felt strangely alienating. Being an out-of-state student is alienating enough at times. Having the constant of marching band ripped away from me just added to my feeling of being an outsider. Homecoming felt like something I was no longer directly connected to. And, as a result, I didn’t seem to care as much leading up to the parade.
This is partially why I hate to admit that I miss you. During the parade, all my preconceptions went out the window, and I had a blast. Home doesn’t just mean you. It doesn’t just mean my direct family, or the family I used to have within my band. Families can be anyone who makes you feel like you belong. Family is anyone that makes you feel home.
My new family isn’t with the band; it’s with The Post. It’s a family that still feels new, but I’m getting more comfortable with it. The Post is becoming my new normal, and in a way, it feels freeing to accept it. I can’t live in the past of you, Oswego. There are still thousands of people to meet and mountains to move. I’ve found a new family, and a new mountain, here in Athens. Next time homecoming comes around, I’ll be excited because of this new family I’ve joined.
You’ll always be a part of me, Oswego. But now, Athens is too, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s okay to miss parts of you, but I can’t let you hold me back, either. There’s still bigger and better things at the peak of each mountain yet to come.
Thank you for being the first hill in my trek of life. I’ll never forget you, and thank you for all that you’ve taught me.