For the first time, I know what it feels like to be cold.
Wrapping my thick, red sweater around my shoulders, I walk to Main, longing for November in my hometown of Las Vegas. Shivering in shorts and knee-high socks, I remember how I used to complain whenever it fell below 70 degrees. It is now almost Thanksgiving, and I am longing for the heavy, deep gray coat that goes down to my knees, hanging ominously in my dorm room dresser.
I am wearing more and more layers everyday. Tights underneath socks, flannels beneath jackets–but I only seem to be getting chillier. I wonder if it is the temperature dropping, or something beneath the surface that is freezing my skin from the inside out.
Perhaps it is that I miss home, more often than I would like to admit. Finding my way across campus is easy, but feeling lost is a sensation I have yet to get used to. Uncertainty lingers in my mind, and when I feel misplaced, I close up, fold myself inwards, and exist in anguished silence. I am afraid that weakness will become my personal failure, as if my lack of consistent happiness is an inherent fault. I know I must not be the only one feeling this way, but I fear isolation anyway.
It all leads back to the plane ride here, when I carried my first one-way ticket, flying the entire ride by myself. Peering out the window as Evanston came into focus, I wrapped my lips around the word “home.” But the corners of my mouth turned into a slight frown as I realized the syllables did not align with my beliefs. Inevitably, I tumbled into a state of limbo. To combine a foreign entity with a sense of comfort confused me. It still catches me by surprise, even now.
Most nights, I miss my bathtub and the sound of my outdated alarm clock, sitting on my night stand at home. I not only yearn for the things that I took for granted, but also those that I struggled to leave behind. The transition is not instantaneous. Life is an elaborate puzzle, and I cannot shove every piece together with hopes that the image will still match the cover of the box. It takes times to sort through my options, to categorize and comprehend, and to eventually, put everything together, in just the right way. The finished product is incredible, but it is not immediate.
Winter will come, snow will fall, and before I know it, I will be on the return flight home. Until then, I will continue to find comfort in the little things: the Subway salad recipe I work to perfect with every equivalency meal and the group chat I have with my friends, in which I manage to spell Deering wrong every time we plan to meet there. I am defined by the tiny moments, no longer searching for a greater meaning.
At first, I thought that I would have to sacrifice one home in exchange for another. Now I know I am just building a new one out of meal card swipes and late night library adventures, stuffed-crust pizza, package notifications and everything in between.
I put on my jacket as I rush out the door, cutting it close on my way to class. Leaves fall around me, their colors changing as the days grow shorter, and the autumn crispness saturates the air. Squirrels still scamper across the sidewalk or in the patches of grass between paths, and someone I vaguely know waves to me, smiling politely as they continue in the opposite direction.
I cross the street, heading towards the Arch, and realize that, finally, I no longer feel so cold.