by Anisa Li

Home. It’s a simple enough word. Four letters. Noun. Denotes a place of residence. But what does it really mean? For the most part, you don’t think about it. For the most part, you don’t need to.
But home can’t last forever. People move, things change. You grow up, you move out, and eventually you make a home for yourself. That’s the usual progression, right? It’s a given for most: when the time comes, you leave and you find your own place—but what about the time in between? Where is home then?
When a family moves, there is the inevitable transition period. If you’ve ever moved, you remember the time when you wake up disoriented because you expected to be in your old room, and for just a moment, you wonder, “Where am I?”
The time when you get up in the middle of the night and run into a wall because you forgot that that’s where the wall is now.
The time when at the mention of home, your mind immediately goes to the old house before catching itself.
Then comes the question everyone asks themselves at least once in life: when does the old place stop being home and the new place start? What makes a home home, for that matter? Is it family? Is it friends? Is it familiarity? Is it possessions? Or is it just the place that you return to each night?
When you’re a kid and moving with your family, the answers are obvious. It’s all of the above: your family moves with you, you make new friends, you become familiar, and you retain your possessions.
When you’re 18, on the brink of adulthood yet lingering in youth, and you’re moving out to be on your own for the first time, the answers are not so obvious. These things are now split: your family is still back where you left them; your old friends are scattered all around while you’re making new ones where you are; everything is new yet you’re adjusting; you have some of your old possessions along with many new ones.
So what’s home now? Is it the place you say you go “back home” to for the holidays? Or is it the place you “go home” to after classes?
All I’m getting so far is a vague idea that it’s a slow process. I remember my sister’s first two years of college: Petaluma was clearly the true home in her heart.
Each Thanksgiving, winter, spring and summer break, and several random weekends in between, she returned to her old room and her old friends and slid easily back into her old Petaluma persona.
In her last two years of college, she identified more with her San Diego home. “At home, I…” she began her stories, instead of “At school…” I’ve also caught her teetering between the two, starting to say “home” and then changing it to “school” or vice versa, looking confused.
Is it like that for everyone? Slow, confusing, and conflicted? Or is it different for everyone, and there’s no point in wondering until it happens? Am I the only one who even thinks about this?
Right now, these are just questions and vague speculations. But it won’t be that way for long. I, like so many other seniors, am leaving for college in the fall. In just three months, I leave, and maybe then I’ll be able to answer some of these questions. Will I like the answer?
I’m scared of not knowing where home is. But I guess it’s just part of growing up. We’re really growing up. Isn’t that crazy?