“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.
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?
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.
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!