Personal Definition of Home Provides Contentment, Stability

CJ Blair, Columnist

The brief period between Thanksgiving and winter break is an interesting one for students. With the quick turnaround between break, finals and another break, many Obies find themselves shuffling between one familiar place and another faster than they might have ever done before. This constant change of setting prompts students to ask themselves: What is home, exactly?

This may seem like another philosophical question every college student is bound to ask themselves. In reality, though, forming an answer to this particular question is substantially more significant than it is for other ones like it. This is because a home grounds a person in the world, both physically and emotionally. Having a good one provides some assurance for support and security, while having a bad one can ensure just the opposite.

For this reason, it makes sense that some of the common experiences of students entering college include anxiety, stress and the notorious homesickness. Homesickness is seldom limited to the physical components of a home, though these can certainly contribute to the feeling. More often, the pains attributed to homesickness are linked to the discontentment that results from changing locations. The feeling of contentment that a home can bring is more likely to be driven by various objects, people and memories that have left a lasting impression on a person.

Of course, not everyone is filled with remorse about leaving their home. A household may be just as much a microclimate for pain as it is for comfort. For many, coming to college isn’t so much letting go of a home as it is liberating oneself from the past. But there’s danger in so quickly turning away from a previous home: the prospect of not having one at all.

There’s something to be said for the freedom to meet new people and establish new relationships when entering college or moving to a different place. However, even the most social extroverts can’t survive in this state forever. For all of the various aspects that constitute home, the thread unifying them all is familiarity.

To have a home is to have a cushion you can fall back on when nothing else is going well. This doesn’t have to consist of years-old relationships and cherished childhood objects. It can be something recent, like a new friend or a quiet place to sit and think. When elementary school students learn ecology, they learn that animals need food, water and shelter to survive. While animals rarely die solely from lack of shelter, the lack of safety and personal stability attributed to homelessness might explain the reason for this third need: survival.

The concept of a home would be undermined if there were a single unifying definition for it. While there may not be much similarity from one definition of a home to the next, it’s reasonable to think that each example has its own specifics. A bed, a girl and a cat mean nothing on their own. Your parents’ creaky bed, your little sister who never shuts up and your cat that never lands on its feet are more likely to be resounding pieces of home. The real defining parts of a home is bound to stick with you in spite of distance or time, and it should be something you won’t forget and that won’t forget you. When I was home over break, I asked my little sister what it was like to be an only child now. She smiled at me and said, “I’m not.”