When home becomes just a place you visit

The clock is ticking, and my refrigerator is, indeed, running (perhaps I’ll see how far it gets before I go catch it).

My home growing up always made those noises. I never seemed to notice them. That was, until I moved into my own apartment for my sophomore year of college. Suddenly, the noises I heard daily were drastically different. I noticed them for a few days—the hum of the air conditioner, the voices from people in the stairwell, and the ticking of the stove when you turn it on. Then, much like everything tends to do, it all blended in.

This past semester, I made it my goal to stay at school until Thanksgiving. It didn’t seem so long at first, and only truly felt that way when I realized it had been almost 13 weeks since I’d seen my family. Of course, I’d spoken to my parents at least once a day the whole semester, but still, 13 weeks seemed like an eternity when I realized it.

So, I went home at Thanksgiving, my goal accomplished. And, much to my surprise, everything at home was different.

Except it wasn’t different at all. Nothing had changed.

And yet, I spent the first fifteen minutes that I was home laughing about how small our refrigerator was. I paced up and down the hallway, looking for other things that had changed.

When I fell asleep that first night home in 13 weeks, I tossed and turned in my bed. I couldn’t seem to cover up just the right way and my pillow was really lumpy. How had I ever slept in this bed before?!

After my week home, I headed back to school to finish off my semester. Those three weeks rushed past, and when, finally, I headed home again, I took some extra supplies.

I brought my entire bed set from school—two pillows, a sheet and my comforter. I brought home every little thing I thought I may need while away from my own apartment for a few weeks—medicine for every ailment, three different perfumes, five pairs of boots and some ballet flats, and clothes to last six weeks—and, as always, touched barely any of it.

The feelings about home persisted, though. Nothing seemed the same anymore, and yet my parents insisted that nothing had changed.

Nothing but me, that is.

Here I am, back in my apartment for the first time in three weeks. My clock is ticking, and my refrigerator is still running. And oddly enough, I’m home.

Home has always been wherever my family lived at any given time. Always. Until now, it seems.

Home, now, is just a place I go to visit. When I’m there, I’m surrounded by people who have always and will always love me unconditionally. I’m snuggled for hours on end by my dog, who probably misses me the most out of anyone when I’m gone.

But even with all that love, home just isn’t home anymore. It’s a weird tension. It doesn’t sit comfortably in my bones. When I’m home, I’m home. But I’m also so far from it.

It’s no longer my house that I return to when school lets out. It’s my parents’ house. And yes, it’s always been my parents’ house…but now, it’s just…theirs. It’s not mine anymore. I’m not sure I know what to do with all of that.

So, I’ll sit here in my chair in my apartment and try to sort through it all. I can’t be the only one who has ever walked this path.

Home, for me, is changing. It’s more than just a space or place or state of mind. It’s real, and yet it’s so far from it. What is home?

All I know now is that it’s not what, or where, I thought it was. It’s not that bedroom I put together at 16. It’s not the wall of photos I created or the corner with all of my painting supplies. It’s not the back roads or memory lane or even mama’s home cooking.

It feels so wrong to say it, but my parents’ house and where I grew up…it’s just not home anymore.