Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Living Now

Four years ago, I was an incoming freshman at Loyola College. I was sad to leave my home, my family, my friends, and everything that I had established in my small town in New Jersey. At that time, I thought I could always return home, that I could return to everything that was comfortable and understood, just the way I had left it. By my sophomore year, Loyola had become my second home, but I still found myself laughing when I would mistakenly say that I had to go back home [to Loyola]. My family didn’t find it as funny—they seemed nostalgic, or maybe even hurt by the fact that I could possibly call another place home. By the end of sophomore year and throughout junior year, I considered Loyola more of a home than I could have imagined. “Home” for me had become an interchangeable term for both places: when leaving Loyola, I was going home, and when returning to Loyola, I was also going home. This year, I my definition of home has been broadened as I consider the times I have traveled beyond the fenced-in neighborhood of Loyola. The city of Baltimore has truly become my home.

Now that I am a senior, I am faced with a mix of emotion as I think about leaving. I find myself already missing things, although they are still right in front of me. Although it may seem insane or overly emotional, as I drive through Baltimore or walk on the quad, sometimes I say goodbye to the architecture, to the characteristic weather, to the place that has become my home. I’m going to miss my friends and all of the relationships I have made during my college years. I’m surprised to say that I’m even going to miss the late nights of homework and daunting deadlines. I’m even going to miss the bush in my backyard that I have watched lose its leaves, re-bud, and flower [haha, how pathetic is that?].

Saying goodbye is difficult. However, I am reassured that although I will be leaving the physical place of Loyola, I am leaving with a wealth of knowledge and skills, long-lasting friendships, and priceless memories. I’ve learned that home is a constantly changing place, and each place has shaped who I am, and will shape who I am continually. I think that as human beings we are extremely adaptable, but uncomfortable with change.

Gilbert recalls her Guru saying that “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it” (268). I have tried to consciously shape who I am today and who I aspire to become, in search of happiness. I am going to take these identities with me, what I’ve learned, and the happiness I’ve experienced at each physical place. I love Loyola. I love Baltimore. I love my home in New Jersey. I love these places, these homes, because I love who I am and who I have become during my stay. I have discovered what makes me feel most at ease, most alive, most aware, most happy, and most at home. My vocation is reading, writing, sharing stories, and creating art.

This semester I discovered the power an author possesses to connect his or her reader with their aspect of homeland through art and literature. Despite cultural, ethnic, linguistic, social, and political differences that may be present between homelands, I have recognized parts of humanity and myself through the stories of each author. These authors have granted their international audiences access to their international senses of home. I think I love the English language because it is increasingly universal, along with art. Art—be it music, writing, painting, etc—is a way to express ourselves, our ideas, and our philosophies in a universally human way. I will bring who I have become with me in my next endeavor: living abroad in Thailand, teaching young students, sharing what I have learned in my homelands with those across the globe.

I will be doing more than teaching in Thailand. I will be learning in Thailand. I will further develop my identity as the physical place shapes the way I view the world. Thailand will be my home, and when I leave, I will bring Thailand with me to my next home. I will share my own experiences of homeland and travel with those I have known and those I will meet along the way.

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