Ah, college! It’s a breath of fresh air to take this first lone step out into the world. It’s an introduction to freedom and individual decision-making, but it also becomes a challenging time of figuring out a new way of living in a new environment. I initially had a hard time thinking of Charlottesville as my home, which was a familiar experience after moving to Okinawa, Japan for a period of time with my family.
Something truly special about moving to both of these locations is the impermanence I felt upon arrival. I was fully aware that I would only reside in Okinawa for a short time before having to leave, just as I know that once I graduate, I will move on from Charlottesville and find a new place to call home.
This temporal awareness of my setting expanded into how I viewed my living situation last year, sharing a first-year dorm room. In that environment, my idea of home was challenged in its entirety. To me, home is a space where I can grow, reflect and be vulnerable without judgment — a space where there are no boundaries to my self-expression. I aspire to come home and sing in the shower if I want or read poetry aloud, play music and dance while I get ready.
However, all of these privacies ceased to exist in a shared room, and I felt compelled to explore outside spaces. I have subsequently gained a grasp on the swing of life at the University from constantly roaming around Grounds or sitting in quiet spaces doing work when I craved alone time.
Having to share a space that’s usually private and intimate, I was met with a challenge, but also an opportunity to learn more about myself. I’ve gained a heightened perspective on what it means to establish a sense of home while away at college. I have gotten to know some of the nooks and crannies of Charlottesville within my reach through exploring local areas with friends. Thrift stores, music venues and coffee shops are all places that pique my interest. Learning the history of the area and the University allows me to become familiar with the spaces I dwell in around Grounds and Charlottesville, as I gain more perspective on the past that existed before me.
Now living off-Grounds, I find comfort in the versatility of the home space which still remains a shared area but in a more balanced way. Any number of activities could blossom at a moment’s notice. Baking something sweet in the kitchen, hosting a dinner party with friends or relaxing in the serenity of my own bedroom, which is a space personalized by and for me. In all these instances, I am surrounded by things that make me happy and that allow me to experience home in a different realm. I experience the presence of others, namely my housemates, but have the option to be alone when I need it.
For me, it becomes helpful to describe home as a space with everything I’ve carried with me along the way. All of the little items I’ve collected bear a unique story of their own, reminding me of all the places I’ve come from. These include items from childhood like my first teddy bear, or from later on, like my crystal jar of shells gathered by the seawall in Okinawa, and more recently, pieces from various vintage shops hanging on my clothing rack. All of these items together serve as a glimpse into how I think and feel.
My interests and how I spend time alone are reflected in the environment where I live, making it a collection of memories from different places. Temporal impermanence can be transcended through these physical items carrying memories and our ability to reflect on our past from any setting.
My idea of home will only keep evolving as I grow, but it’s important for me to relish in the space I inhabit now. I feel I have made a home out of the area that will stick with me for the rest of my life, rather than viewing Charlottesville, the University and my house as temporary spaces. Although I didn’t experience this comfort initially, living in a dorm contributed to my growth as an individual by making me want to see what existed beyond the walls of my room. I can now rest comfortably in the privacy of my own space and be thankful for where I’ve been.