The first trip back home is the hardest


Jennafer Bowman | @jennaferbowman, Staff Columnist

Whether you went to college far away or an hour away, something is off when you return home for the first time. You walk into your front door and are greeted by your family pet. They rub against you, practically begging you not to leave again. Guilt bubbles in you because there is no way to explain “college” to an animal. After they have settled down, you move on to family members, usually consoling the teary-eyed one first. The hug given is tight, like you’re being anchored onto. 

After the excitement of first interactions are over, you relax, sitting on the couch you used to binge-watch the latest Netflix show on. You look around the room, and something is off. It could be that your mom redecorated the mantle, removing your graduation pictures in favor of pictures of the dog in an ugly-colored sweater. Maybe the candle burning in the kitchen is a different scent than usual. It could be the house is rearranged; the dining room is now the living room. Whatever it is, it’s off.

After some rest, you might go and visit some friends. The adults you knew are different; familiar faces have started to gray, frown lines have formed on people you always thought had a smile. But, your friends still in high school look the same. Kids might be juniors now, but they still look like freshmen, thanks to a memory imprinted in your brain. When they start to talk about the colleges they’re looking at, it throws you off. “They’re just a baby,” you think. 

Wherever you go, the same question is asked: “How’s college?” It becomes such a constant question that your answer comes out almost robotic. “I love it,” you reply, afraid that if you say anything else, they’ll think about what a mistake you made picking that school. The truth is that you do love it, but just like everything else, it’s hard. People might hug you a little tighter, or they’ll hold onto you longer, which is weird considering they didn’t care that much before you left, so why bother now? 

Leaving again is the hardest. You think to yourself that you can transfer closer, that you could do this every weekend. But then reality sets in. Your life isn’t there anymore. Instead of being your home, it’s turned into the place you visit on break. Memories rush back of how badly you wanted to leave the exact place you’re now begging to stay in. Maybe you made a pinky promise to a younger you that you would leave that town, that you would get as far away as possible, and you can’t take that back. Or alternatively, you realize your parents are babying you because you’re home for the first time. It wasn’t like that before, and it won’t stay like that. When you leave, the hugs are just as tight as when you first arrived, but you know it’ll be OK. 

The hardest part about going home is realizing that places and memories don’t change – you do.