Where the heart is

How losing a house made me sad to lose a home

This winter break, my drive home was slightly longer than usual. Instead of driving up the familiar rectangular driveway, I arrived to a public parking garage. When I walked inside, I was greeted by a concierge. I took my loads of luggage up an elevator instead of up the stairs.

In early December, my family moved out of the home we lived in for eight years and into an apartment about 20 minutes away. When I left home after Thanksgiving break, I knew I was leaving behind the sights and smells which had become familiar throughout my teenage years. I was leaving behind my time capsule of a bedroom with “American Idol” posters still hanging on its walls. I was leaving behind my favorite spot on the couch in the living room. I was leaving behind the kitchen where my parents and I had hundreds of dinnertime conversations, and where I jumped up and down after being accepted into U.Va.

The first few weeks of living in our new apartment were strange. My dog learned what it was like to ride in an elevator, we got really good at assembling IKEA furniture and I became talented at using the trash chute. For the beginning of break, it really felt like an extended trip, and I even caught myself thinking, “Well, when we go home….”

The transition was a dramatic downsizing, and as a result, we had to get rid of a lot of belongings very quickly. I gave away lots of clothes, stuffed animals and miscellaneous possessions. However, with the exception of a few books and a hiking backpack which can easily be replaced, I have no remorse for the things that went on to a new home.

Gradually, the number of empty boxes we needed to carry outside dwindled. We stopped accidentally driving in the direction of our old house. I adjusted to the new views from the windows. It was the same three people and dog who had inhabited the old house, and by the time 2016 rolled around, the new one had already started to feel like home. And that is because we never really left home. We are each other’s home, and I’m grateful to have a family who transcends the space we are living in at any given moment.

The success of this transition brought about a bittersweet realization in my mind. I realized the next move I am going to make — leaving Charlottesville in May — will be much different than leaving a house and much harder. I will be leaving a home in the truest sense of the word. I will be leaving behind a unique community of people who made me who I am today.

I might give away some furniture, and I’ll leave an apartment I’ve only lived in for a matter of months, but those things won’t be difficult. What will be difficult is leaving a place full of friends and memories, knowing we will never exist in such close proximity to each other ever again. I’ll be able to return and visit Charlottesville, but it will no longer be the same because the people who make it home may not be with me.

While I hope and pray my friendships won’t go away when I graduate and my relationships continue to grow over time, I know I won’t have the same opportunities to run into people I have lost touch with, grab a spontaneous lunch or just sit and talk for a few hours on a whim. I will no longer be in a 30-minute walking radius from all of the people who make up this home. As sad as this is, I am grateful I recognize it now while I still have four months left, so I can really appreciate what I have before it is gone.

So thank you to everyone who has become a part of this second home. Please help me make the most of what we have this semester. Home, as they say, is where the heart is, and there will always be a place in my heart for all of the loving, inspiring and intelligent people I have gotten to know over the past four years.

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