“You can never go home again,” “Home is where the heart is,” “Home is wherever I’m with you.” I felt an awkward amalgamation of these trite phrases as the wheels of an airplane hit the ground of Newark airport. I left home without looking back once and I’d stayed at school without any of my heartstrings pulling me apart, yearning to go back home. No, none of that happened until I had set a date to go home. Following my plane booking I suddenly began craving a ham, egg and cheese bagel from across the street of my high school, I developed the overwhelming urge to drive myself places, I needed the sun like oxygen and I wanted to spend three hours watching “Paris: The Luminous Years,” an otherwise boring documentary about long-dead artists of the 20s, with my dad all afternoon - none of these things had manifested themselves prior to the purchasing of a plane ticket home.
I suppose this was convenient. I was content to be in my happy bubble of Northwestern, unaware of homesickness, until it was time to go back home for a little while, at which point I began to crave my happy bubble of New Jersey. But as I sat on the plane on my way back to NU I could not help but wonder, will my return to the Evanston bubble be as blissful as my initiation to it? My return isn’t as exciting as my introduction; I’m not romantically whisked away from my humdrum life to a far-off land full of opportunity. Rather, I am apprehensively returning to my mediocre calc grades, already well-traversed treks up and down campus, and frustratingly spotty weather. I’m leaving home with a newfound appreciation for it, finally well aware of the things that it can provide me and the things that Evanston cannot-those realizations are uncomfortable ones. Why can’t I find a decent bagel in Evanston? Why don’t they allow charming furry animals to reside in the dorm rooms? Why isn’t Target next door? Why do I have a license but no car? And worst of all: why aren’t all my old friends here? These are the questions that I’m terrified to ask myself. Because once you start asking them it seems there’s no way to stop yourself from returning to them again and again.
Possibly if I were wholly unhappy with the situation there would be an easier solution: transfer. Maybe I’m not ready for college, maybe I need to be closer to home, the Midwest was too much of a culture shock, I’ve realized the strong emotional bond between myself and my two cats - the absence of which has forced me into depression. Luckily or unluckily, not many of us face these unhappy realizations. What most of us do reach though, is the conclusion that our new life is vastly different from our old one. The difference is not necessarily negative, it’s just that: different. And “different” always takes getting used to.
While you are home you are reminded of the discrepancies between your old life and your new one. Nostalgia sets in while you’re there and the deadline to go back to school looms over your head. Then, suddenly, you find yourself fighting against the idea of returning to your new life. Because your old one was so well-established and comfortable. You have your friends, your family, your car, your pets, your favorite food, accents and area code. These little comforts come together to form the utopian fairy tale of what your old life was.
If it’s so blissful returning home, why do any of us ever come back? I began to rack my brain for reasons why I loved NU so much, searching for any sort of meaning in my new life. Party after party and class after class can become redundant, the weather is going to become unbearably cold, the Midwest’s bagels suck, I can’t take my cats and I’m not going to be able to see my friends for another three or more months. It sounds like I’m going to be really unhappy upon my return, so what’s the point?
My point is that we all experience this essential existential crisis. We all feel the nostalgia pulling at us, the grass is always greener on the other side and our home is where we feel the most “at home.” So it’s natural, and in a way it’s a good sign. It means that your old life had meaning, that you had something to lose in coming here. But, instead of reflecting on what you lost from your old life, realize what positives you’ve gained from your new one. Before you fall into depression and misery at the idea that you have to return to Northwestern (if that’s even possible), try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t go back. When I did this (because I oftentimes participate in intense introspection), I was a little bummed. I realized I would have missed the people I’d met there, my friends. That was my reason for coming back. I realized that my new friends had already, in these first three months, had a profound impact on me; they were one of the few reasons why I was so excited to get back on campus.
If you establish lasting relationships with the people around you, there’s no doubt that you will feel confident in trading your bagels, pets, cars, your precious past for your future life, which I promise you, is worth it.