Home is a Moving Target

Well, folks, this is it: my final blog post. I didn’t exactly keep up with this blog as much as I intended to this year…or at all…which is pretty par for the course, honestly. But I still thought I would leave you with some final thoughts. Also, I had a lot of time to think and write as I drove back to Texas from Ohio, which is when this post was composed (hence the somewhat strange use of present tense/incongruous temporal references in some places…just roll with it).

But first, here is a picture that pretty perfectly captures how I looked all of grad weekend: vaguely excited, slightly perplexed, and gloriously be-robed.

But first, here is a picture that pretty perfectly captures how I looked all of grad weekend: slightly perplexed, vaguely excited, and gloriously be-robed.

If there’s one thing that road trips are good for, it’s introspection. Well, that, and billboards reassuring you that hell is real. Those are always a treat.

When you’re on a long haul trek like the one my brother and I are making for the third time from Ohio to Texas, you have a lot of time to think. Sometimes, you’re behind the wheel, a Spotify playlist blaring as your brother naps with his baseball cap over his eyes. Other times, you might be cross-legged in the front seat, occasionally snapping out of your internal reverie to make a snarky comment or compose an artful snapchat of the passing scenery (#roadtrip). Either way, you’ve got a lot of time to sit (and sit…and sit…) and ruminate.

Honestly, it’s not a bad thing. Monday, I graduated from college. Friday, I will leave for a summer in Panama working with an international youth leadership development organization. Sometime soon after that, I will head to the other side of the globe, to spend a little under a year as a faculty intern at a university outside of Accra, Ghana.

You could say I have a lot to think about. (I phrased it pretty eloquently when I texted my friend after graduation: “Holy shit there are so many feelings.”)

As I watch the states whiz by (we took a scenic detour in Kentucky; it was very green), I keep thinking of the Intercultural Communication class that I took this past semester. Between discussions of intersectionality, the fluidity of identities, and intercultural praxis, we spent some time theorizing the idea of “home.” Despite my newly minted degree, I’m still not completely convinced that I’m qualified to theorize anything, but, under the circumstances, I have been thinking a lot about the idea nonetheless.

In my final weeks at Wooster, I picked up the phrase “it’s a moving target.” I used it ad nauseam – and then some. (Examples: Flippantly answering a question with, “My future? A moving target.” In a more abstract, and more pseudo-philosophical sense, reassuring mini-existential crisis-ing friends that “life is a moving target.” I even apparently used it to inadvertently imply that someone was more or less a floozy. Whoops.) It is this phrase that keeps popping up in my head as I think about this idea of home, and so, as I pretend to theorize on this great inter-state adventure of mine, this is my conclusion: home is a moving target.

To stick with the “target” metaphor for just another awkward second, I hit the mark in a lot of ways when I chose Wooster. Tiny Caroline (as I like to refer to my younger self) picked Wooster out of the Fiske Guide to Coleges (and yes, I reviewed the entire thing) because it fit a mish-mash list of criteria that I put together based on my romanticized image of what I wanted in a college. It was at the bottom of my list, actually, in the section labeled “safety schools.” It survived several systematic culls of said list, mostly because I thought the name sounded funny, and because I was intrigued by the idea of a school with so many weird traditions. (Kilts? Cool.) Also it accepted the Common App, and I wasn’t really interested in writing extra essays.

I’ll spare you the college application story, because it’s long and not particularly thrilling or germane. In the end, I was choosing between two schools, and Wooster was one of them. It’s pretty easy to guess how that decision ended up. Ironically, I learned that the silly name that had drawn me to the school in the first place (I thought it was WOO-ster) wasn’t actually pronounced the way I had imagined…(talk about a let down!) I got over it. I settled in and quickly realized that, silly name or no silly name, I had made the right choice.

And here is the part where I get sappy, as is my god-given right as a recent grad:

In a lot of ways, I found home in my time at Wooster.

I found home on my class Facebook page, where I met a small girl from Tennessee with a big attitude and a bigger heart. We ended up living next door to each other, and the rest is history. From sophomore year roommates to senior year partners in crime, we have stuck together through a helluva a lot, laughing all of the way. Our friendship works in the way that most good friendships do: by growing apart and together again in oscillating cycles, but never ceasing to care intensely and aggressively, tied together with inside jokes, fierce loyalty, and lots of Taylor Swift. I found home with a beautiful, loud Mainer who insulted my state and poked fun at my accent in a loving-but-initially-intimidating way. I sobbed saying good-bye to her before we both went abroad, surprising my normally emotionally-inexpressive self with how much she meant to me. Her bright, effusive energy complimented my more reserved side and brought out the best in me, and we spent the majority of our one class together leaning on each other’s shoulders, absent-mindedly comfortable in the simple joy of each others’ presence.

This is one of those pictures that you frame on your mantel for literally forever.

The culprits. Alternate caption: this is such a cute picture it makes me want to cry.

I found home in long-distance friendship, while walking aimlessly around campus, alternatively soothing and sobbing to my two best friends since middle school. When I decided that my world was crashing down around my ears in my final weeks on campus, I found myself dialing their numbers and talking in disjointed circles for almost an hour as they listened patiently and made reassuring noises at all of the right times. When I was so excited by a job offer that I felt like I would probably choke on my own heart, I called them because my joy needed somewhere to land and they stuck out their hands to catch it. When I wandered home to an empty room one night, profoundly lonely, hungry, and broke, they ordered me a pizza from across the country and sent me reassuring text messages until I was able to eat and fall asleep feeling loved. I found home in the countless hours I spent perched in the front seat of my car with their voices on speaker phone, or sprawled in a lounge trying to figure out how to work that damned G+ video hangout for the umpteenth time.

We have perfected the art of the selfie. Note the floral backdrop.

We have perfected the art of the selfie. Note the floral backdrop.

I found home in my first year dorm, in a gaggle of freshmen just as eager and frightened as I was. I found it in a sorority, in a group of girls who, in just the right way, let me pour my effusive love into their open arms, whom I sometimes even allowed to love me back. I found it while holding a colorful pen and a clipboard in the newspaper office, laughing cautiously and later without inhibition, surrounded by happy chaos and half-empty to-go boxes. I found it in acquaintances turned friends turned acquaintances and back again, in small acts kindness and having someone to sit with in the dining hall, in spontaneous heart-to-hearts and in drunk strangers. I found it in an uncanny resemblance to a first year friend turned perpetual counterpart, in silly text messages and half-whispered admissions of self-doubt and in margaritas and life chats and the most sincere of encouragements. I found home in one-off interactions and friendships that moved, changed, and ended.

Just some of my favorite academics/people.

Just some of my favorite academics/people.

I found home when I built it with my own two hands, creating a nest for myself out of books, a hapless pursuit of knowledge, Diet Coke bottles, and encouraging notes. I found home while getting lost in the stacks because one thing leads to another and all of a sudden it was dark out and I hadn’t even realized that I’d spent three hours Dewey-decimal hopping; while writing excited annotations filled with cheeky jokes that only I would read; and while closing my eyes as I typed and forgetting how ridiculous I might look to the nearby table of underclassmen as I got lost in the delightful puzzle of fitting words together so that they sounded just right. I found it while napping in the lounge of Wishart Hall, in my classes and the exciting thrill of making everything connect and then expand and connect again. I found it behind podiums, when my legs shook but my voice didn’t (mostly). I found it in my professors, in awe and admiration for their knowledge and kindness in equal measure. I found it in my carrel, my I.S., the library, and the act of writing, in finding my passions and learning how marvelous it felt to chase them even when I felt like I was running blind. I found it in my ability to turn off the world when I needed to, to throw myself into something with reckless abandon and to emerge from it full of joy, accomplishment, and undiminished passion.

One of the more literal manifestations of home: some would argue that I actually lived at my carrel this year.

One of the more literal iterations of home: some would argue that I actually lived at my carrel this year.

I found home in so many people and places throughout my college career, and yet, as this car hurtles across the country, I don’t feel like I am leaving home behind any more than I feel like I’m heading back toward it. Instead, I feel myself settling into my own skin.

Home is a moving target and I am taking it with me.

It is a strange feeling, one that’s not fully formed, and it keeps shifting and poking itself through my ribs before settling back into a lovely, misshapen lump in my chest. It is a chaotic calm, a giddy anticipation at the skeleton of a tomorrow that I keep glimpsing in my fitful naps and an unfamiliar peace that sounds like being okay with where I am right now. It is never static and sometimes exhausting, but it feels right, and that’s all that really matters, I suppose. Home is an ever-changing thing and Wooster has helped me learn to bend and mold with it, to grow and change and pause and continue and start again.

All of that, of course, is very vague and mildly poetic and not at all concrete, but I think that’s all I can really ask for at this point. Home is undefined, but, at twenty-two, so am I. And I think I like it that way. After all, there’s so much more left to see. And though I don’t exactly know what’s out there, or what it will look like, or how I will react, I do know that I’m excited to find out. Whatever it may be, whatever life is going to look like or throw at me, I think I’m ready. As we used to say at sporting events (and in pretty much any other circumstance, albeit somewhat sardonically): here we go, Scots.

I love everything about this photo. Our selfie game was so strong at Baccalaureate.

I love everything about this photo. Our selfie game was so strong at Baccalaureate.

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