Help Me Home (College Post #4)

“Your first free write is to describe a setting,” my Creative Writing professor says. “Any setting. Go.”

My classmates’ pens hit paper like divers launching into a swimming pool – a blur of movement, and they’re off, splashes of syllables and sentences trailing in their wake. Meanwhile, I clutch the edge of the desk, my pencil forgotten in the kiddie pool.

“I cannot believe you would date him,” I say. “He’s clearly an idiot. Like 2% milk, just replace ‘milk’ with ‘brain cells.'”

Wait, I think, that’s dialogue, not setting. By the time I finish one sentence about a sprawling suburbia filled with shallow parents longing for their kids to do something other than each other, my professor calls time. I glance at my friend across from me, and I take a small breath of relief when I see she’s only written a couple of sentences.

Until she flips the page of her notebook, revealing several fleshed-out paragraphs. Go figure.

It's Valentine's Day, AKA, Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor appreciation day. Now that Queer as Folk is on Netflix, there's no excuse not to watch it! Image via vampireparker.tumblr.com

It’s Valentine’s Day, AKA, Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor appreciation day. Now that Queer as Folk is on Netflix, there’s no excuse not to watch it! Image via vampireparker.tumblr.com

Last week, I was faced with the decision of whether I should rush an Honors fraternity. My boss made the brilliant point that I should only dedicate time to it if I felt that it offered me something I couldn’t find anywhere else – two of their three tenants, scholarship and service, I already allocated enough effort toward. But the third, social life and community, forced me to think about my sense of belonging here at college.

I’ve never really understood the idea of “home.” As someone who grew up in an abusive household, I did not acquire a great attachment to my humble abode as a child. When I go back to visit on breaks, I still experience a strange detachment, like, ah, yes, this is where I cried over and over for the fates of my favorite fictional characters time after time once did my homework and slept at night. It brings to mind the concept of flight: you can imagine what it would feel like through reading about it and going sky-diving and traveling on airplanes, but it’s not like you can actually soar or ascend into the sky.

I love my college, don’t get me wrong. But something about last week – maybe a mixture of family problems, not talking to one of my best friends for awhile, and other minor issues – made me feel lost. As a fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I wanted to scream: if I haven’t secured a sense of belonging, where do I go from here? How am I supposed to set out and accomplish my purpose, my goal of making a difference?

Not that I don't appreciate all my friends and coworkers and the opportunities I have here at college. Here's a picture of where I work my second job - isn't it pulchritudinous?

Not that I don’t appreciate all my friends and coworkers and the opportunities I have here at college. Here’s a picture of where I work my second job – isn’t it pulchritudinous?

After over-thinking and lending myself to way too much introspection a bit of rumination, I found my home away from home, the unseen shelter I’ve resided in for so many years: the issues and emotions I feel passionate about, as well as the friends I keep close to my heart. This dwelling is not tangible or easy to access, but that makes it special, this castle within my mind constructed of a love for words and fictional characters and a desire to help people succeed. Some people pay attention to their external environments, or the immediate presence of those around them – the woods behind their houses, their positions in clubs or teams – but for some reason, I see things differently.

There’s no one definition of home, especially in a college setting: some spend all their time in Greek life while others sleep in the library or in their research labs. For me, I find myself most comfortable reading, writing, or working with others in meaningful and productive ways. It’s why, in creative writing, I find dialogue and voice much easier to convey than setting or physical environment. We all have our strengths even when we feel like we’re lost or alone – it’s just the continual process of moving one foot after another on the path of helping yourself find home.

Can we take a moment to appreciate how I'm appreciated because of my twerking? Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Can we take a moment to appreciate how I’m appreciated because of my twerking? Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Thoughts? Where would you guys consider home – physically or mentally? Have you ever struggled with your finding your place in this big wide world? Please let me know, and on a side note, you can check out my brief reviews of The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope and Suicide Watch by Kelley York here and here, respectively. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Help Me Home (College Post #4)

  1. Hey, Thomas.

    Easily one of your most touching posts yet. I’m blown away.

    I guess I’ll start off with answering the question you posed about whether or not I’ve found a home. Yes, I have, and that’s my karate studio. Don’t think I’m some malevolent nutjob, by the way–I’m a kids’ teacher. Happy faces. But what that’s really taught me about home is that to me, it’s a community of mutual love and caring. While we all come from very different walks of life, beliefs and philosophies, the two-hundred-fifty people I work with at that studio all love and care very deeply about each other. We’re family. And so what I can say about home is that that is where it truly lies, with those you love and those you care about, and who care about you back, whether that’s through virtues of the martial arts, beautiful works of literature, a GOOD college fraternity or group, or what have you, what I can advise is to find the place in this world where you want to be most, and where you are brought together with others for a common purpose and love, and simply be.

    Wow, that ended up being more than I anticipated.

    Also, one last bit for your writing prompt that stuck out to me…the assignment was describing a setting, yes? World-building. I can build a house with hammer and nails, or saws and screwdrivers, or chopsticks and kindling. What I use doesn’t make the difference. Just like worlds can be created through sensory details…or dialogue. Just my two cents ;)

    May you find your home, and may it receive you well.

    ~Evan

    • Evan, reading about your karate studio and the sense of belonging it gives you makes me smile. You’re right that home can be found almost anywhere, as long as that place consists of a common purpose and love.

      Thank you for reading and commenting with such insight, and also I appreciate your two cents in regard to setting – that helps with my self-esteem for sure. (:

      • Hey Thomas,

        Sorry I’m only getting back to you now–life be life and all that. First off, I’m so glad I can have an impact–the ability to help is one of humanity’s most potent inventions, and it’s nice to know that I like you can use it. And second…well, for the sake of conciseness, I do hope that you find the home you’re looking for, whatever form it may take :)

        Be well and prosper, my friend.

        Evan

  2. All the while I read this I had one continuing thought…. Thomas go forward. Why not create a setting in your thoughts, dreams, hopes….plans-that you want to be in? Imagine it. Right now you have the possibility of any where ANY WHERE. I suspect your setting will be comfort and honesty and peaceful. And beautiful.

    While I grew up and in my early married years I constantly questioned myself and my sister. I would ask “does my house feel like home?” When I stopped asking that question I knew I had found my place.

    • You’re right, Colleen – sometimes home sneaks up on us when we least expect it, and that’s the magic of it. Thank you for reading and commenting and for your support!

  3. Always feels like an event to read a new Thomas post. Sounds like you’re doing well in college. As for home, I have lived away from my parents for about ten years now. My home now is in my house with my boyfriend and cat. It still feels like home when I visit my parents. I’m sure you will find a place to call home, and when you do, it will be like it’s always been there.

  4. Peter

    Beautifully said, Thomas. I’m not sure whether ‘fiction’ can ever be a proper definition of a novel or story because when we read we suspend disbelief entirely and cry, laugh or just get along with the characters on the page as if we were walking beside them. Whenever I return to, say, Huckleberry Finn or David Copperfield I often have a tear in my eye because I’m meeting up with old friends again.

    • Yes, exactly – to feel that empathy and strength of connection with a character shows how stories can serve as homes away from home. Great to know that you have books and characters you care a lot about. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. You are truly a beautiful writer. Home changes many times, and it’s wherever you say it is, wherever you feel it in your heart. Wherever you feel most safe, and most happy.

  6. This was a beautiful post Thomas (as always) :). I’m pretty sure I would have loved to have you at my University and take a few classes with you :). Going back to your question about home. I think home is both a physical and mental setting. I considered the third floor of the University Centre my home when I worked for the Centre for Students with Disabilities and for the Centre for New Students. It was the physical setting where we had a bunch of tables to do our own work and help out students. This was just a great place because my Peer Helper supervisor would come in his scooter and stop by to talk to us and one time I was so stressed with school he even dropped by to give me a Care Package. It was home to me because this is the place where I saw my friends. One of my co-workers joked that I practically lived there and it was true,especially on Mondays because I was on campus from about 7.30-8.00 in the night. But it was a comforting place because there were always people to talk and you had this kind of understanding with each other when about school and life when the tough weeks rolled around.

    That being said I’ve been back to campus a few times since I graduated and there have been times when I’ve felt like it hasn’t been home. I think this is partially because all the people that I worked with and helped out have graduated and doing amazing things. My former supervisors are still there and I’ve loved talking to them every single time I go because they make me feel like I’m back to a place which I’ve loved so dearly. So I do think people play an important part in the idea of home, because without them the physical setting of home wouldn’t have any meaning. When I graduated and came back home to live on a permanent basis I admit that I was uncomfortable being back. I felt like I had lost the independence I had acquired while living away from home. But then my grandma got sick in March so all those issues that I was having went right out the window and I was just focused on her and my mom. Now though to be honest I’m just grateful to have parents who love having me home and that I have a place to stay. Sometimes it makes me sad that I’m growing up and I’ll have to eventually move out, but I’m just glad that I get to see them, my brother and dog on a daily basis and just enjoy their company. I’m going to have to live in residence again when I start school in April and that kind of makes me sad too. But I guess that’s the process of growing up.

    I hope that wasn’t too much rambling! I feel like always go off on a tangent! But I hope that makes sense!

    Have a great week at school :)

    • Savindi, I love reading about your time at University and your descriptions of home, wherever that may be. I agree that we need people to flesh out the physical settings we inhabit, and it’s true that growing up and moving on are bittersweet. What strikes me as wonderful from reading your comment, however, is that you can always come back to the places you’ve left behind – and they will be waiting for you. (: Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. Oh Thomas. I wish I could give you a hug. Here’s a cyber one.

    I agree with what someone above said – what you have right now, your school, and your new friends (however troublesome and frustrating they might be) definitely constitute a home. I don’t know to what extent this is true, but from your posts it seems like you’re thriving more wonderfully and vigorously than you have previously (smidgen of knowledge gleaned from the little time I’ve been reading your blog >_>) – basically it seems like this place suits you and is bringing out the best in you, making way for even better things to come. So I think you are making a home for yourself here.

    I’m quite familiar with not belonging, but in a different manner of speaking. As a first gen diaspora kid I know what you mean when you say you look around and feel like you just don’t belong in a way that those around you do. I think, ultimately, home ends up being a personal strength you find within yourself. It might not always provide a consistent level of comfort but it can certainly be established and found within.

    And I’m sure even those who do belong, find that their ‘home’, whatever and wherever that is, can’t always help provide the answers when they’re feeling lost.

    P.S. I hope you derive loads of comfort from all that Britin shipping ;)

    • “I think, ultimately, home ends up being a personal strength you find within yourself. It might not always provide a consistent level of comfort but it can certainly be established and found within.”

      So true! I feel like you established the point of this post with those two sentences – I think you’re right that college has helped me thrive and learn more about myself and academics, even if it is tough at times. We all feel a little lost at times but in the end life goes on, and we move with it.

      Thank you for reading and commenting as always! And yes, Britin makes any bad day better. (:

  8. Home isn’t necessarily a place you’re born into though it might be for a while, nor is it somewhere that’s waiting for you because I think perhaps it’s where you make it, be it in your mind, in the presence of the few people you’ve grown close to over the years. You know it when you feel it.

    I don’t feel like I fit in, and that’s saying something since I literally hardly have friends in the first place. At my space of residence, I feel apart at times when I look on as my family come together and there I am in the corner. For now home for me lies within my books, for I too lock up with my fictional acquaintances :)

    QAF isn’t streaming properly on Netflex for some reason, why is this happening to me? That link you’d shared a while ago was a bit tedious for me, probably bad connection. Here’s to finding home, Thomas, I know that you will. All the best!
    D.

    • I agree that we create home through our gumption and willpower – I’m glad that another individual finds their sense of belonging in books and the power of the written word.

      I’m sorry that QAF isn’t streaming properly on Netflix at the moment, I hope it works soon! Thank you for reading and commenting and for your support as always!

  9. Pingback: Sprouting roots in this asphalt jungle | Colinology

  10. lol, did you end up rushing the frat?

    well, home is wherever I am, as long as I can retain my sense of humor and perspective.

    Michelle

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