(Guest Post) how can it be home when it’s not by Jenny B. '25
finding a sense of belonging away from home
By Fatima ’25, one of my roommates!
i have been away from home for weeks before and never felt homesick. looking back, that was probably because the excitement of being at a new place never got replaced with the overwhelming realization of being at that new place before that of leaving the new place. after all, i had only been away from home for weeks.
before coming here, when someone would ask if i’d miss home, i wouldn’t think twice before saying no. i couldn’t be seen as weak, or i wouldn’t deserve coming. i wouldn’t deserve being at one place when my heart so overwhelmingly ached for another.
as fall semester progressed, i missed home. a lot. to the point where ‘i just wanna go home’ was probably my most-said sentence. it sounds so dumb that i couldn’t identify what it was but really it was almost halfway through fall when i realized that it was homesickness.
homesickness. that being away from home is so difficult for me that it physically aches. that it is difficult to focus on anything. or enjoy the things that i truly, genuinely love.
just acknowledging that i was homesick changed a lot of things for me. my roommate also had been feeling homesick and realizing what it was and that we had been going through similar things made it easier to talk about it and easier to go through it.
still i didn’t feel anything for 'Boston' refers to both Boston and Cambridge in this post it was just… there.
during winter break, i went to new york city for a week. it is an amazing place, with lots to do, but the weirdest thing happened. i missed boston. i missed MIT. i missed next house. maybe, not as much as home, but i missed it. it felt liminal to be there as it used to at MIT and coming back, i would come to a constant.
during Independent Activities Period, which runs throughout January , i began to cook™ for myself often. i would buy weekly groceries, make dinner, read occasionally and made another door sign for our room. in a way, i slowly made an active effort to make the place i lived in, mine. instead of feeling miserable for myself, i tried to look for home around me.
just last week, i was walking by the Tastefully Furnished Lounge – the largest gathering space in Next House that's located on the first floor and for a second, paused and looked around, ‘where am i?’ truly, i don’t know, but it is mine. it is familiar enough for me to not look too closely most of the times. or feel like the walls are new as i walk in every night. it feels like the default. it is the way it should be.
i no longer feel like i am traveling. i feel comfortable here, i can stay here. this is not a four-year long plane flight.
i still have those moments where i ask how can it be home when it so obviously, clearly, is not. to be honest, i don’t know. i just know that this place that once felt foreign now feels warm. this place that i never wanted to be home now seems like one. i care for the people around me just as much and more than i did in the fall.
i went back to read a journal entry i wrote back in finals week halfway through writing this. i said ‘home has become a fleeting concept now.’ i talked about how selfish i had to be to change and expect home to stay exactly the way i left it, how greedy to want multiple homes in different places, all there for me when i am lucky enough to have one that will always be mine. ‘i am not ready for these exchanges.’ it is important to realize that this is not an exchange. like new experiences find a space in memories without erasing or undermining previous ones, homes can hopefully, probably, co-exist too.
but i also said ‘they [the people around me] make this place a little warmer.’ it’s funny i used the same word here too.
in my reading poetry class, we discussed Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art.” i loved that poem. i loved it even when i wasn’t thinking of my home. one thing we pointed out in our discussions was how she changes one of the repeating lines from ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master’ to ‘It’s evident/ the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ and I said that the ‘not hard’ to ‘not too hard’ shift is the core of the poem. i would like to think that in my villanelle of repeated ‘ i wanna go home,’ the shift from ‘a little warmer’ to ‘warm’ is the core.
i would like to think that i have found home. in this place that pushes you down and then pulls you back up. i have found home in the people around me, in my collection of my not-so-useful-some-may-call-trash memoirs, in the physical space of MIT. boston seems not too far, not too big. i would hopefully not get lost in Kendall Square – area in Cambridge, MA that has a high concentration of tech companies and MIT-affiliated buildings even from next house, campus seems closer together. and even when things are not too great, everything seems to be better in A line from the book 'It Ends With Us'
- 'Boston' refers to both Boston and Cambridge in this post back to text ↑
- Independent Activities Period, which runs throughout January back to text ↑
- Tastefully Furnished Lounge – the largest gathering space in Next House that's located on the first floor back to text ↑
- Kendall Square – area in Cambridge, MA that has a high concentration of tech companies and MIT-affiliated buildings back to text ↑
- A line from the book 'It Ends With Us back to text ↑