If you went to college, you know exactly how each conversation you had with each new person you met went. The first question was usually, “where are you from.” Without hesitation you will blurt out the town you grew up in and called your home. It becomes a routine of just repeating where you live. I know every time someone would ask me I would respond, “Manasquan, New Jersey. It’s a small beach town in central Jersey.” It became part of the script I used every time I met someone new. But as I answered the question more and more and over and over I thought, “Is this place you call home, actually home. Can home be something more than just a place? What if home is a feeling?” Please feel free to follow along my story on with this link.
People move, that’s a fact. According to the United States Census 35.7 million people move per year. That’s 35.7 million people who are changing houses. My dad always said, “Never attach yourself to your house, it’s just a house.” If a house is just a house, what can you consider a home. Is it the things you have in the house or the fact that you grew up there? This question bounced around my head for quite a while, until the thought that a feeling could be home entered my head. A feeling of comfort and belonging that resides in you when you do something that is familiar to you.
Up until October 2012 I never gave much thought about a home until Hurricane Sandy devastated my town. She ripped it to shreds without much warning. Everything I had grown up with was gone. The familiar beach, my friend’s houses, even the people had all changed in that short time. During those weeks without power I learned that although she destroyed my town I still had a home. My family and friends were all still there which is a blessing. One thing that sticks in my memory is that I was still able to cheer which gave me comfort during those weeks. We still had practice (because we were going to nationals) and my team and I were able to come together in a freezing gym to go over the routine. This little bit of familiarity helped me feel like I wasn’t lost and I had something to go home to during those practice days. I was still able to do other things I liked to do like read and sing, which gave me relief when I was unsure of what was going to happen. By doing these little things like these I realized that even though my home was in shambles I still had a “home.”
As a college student I was able to realize this even more than I already had. I feel home sick quite often. I am from New Jersey and going to school in Virginia. Compared to others it may not be so far, but six hours in still quite a distant from everything that was established in my life. I was homesick. But according to CNN, “It stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home.” So in order to make myself feel better, I do things that are familiar to me and bring comfort. For me personally this is singing. Back in Manasquan I would sing in chorus, theatre, the car, the shower, just about anywhere. So when I sing here I feel the sense of belonging that I consider to be my home.
I feel like everyone has something that is their mental “home.” It could be playing a sport or reading a favorite book. It could be listening to country music or taking a hike. “Home” can also be little things like wrapping a present for someone or wearing a favorite piece of jewelry or eating at your favorite diner back in the town you grew up. All of these bring comfort to those doing them because they are familiar. I interviewed some of my friends here at JMU to see what they thought of as home as a feeling. Here’s a short video on my findings.
I am going to add some psychology into the picture. You may think that I am just making up that people tend to feel at home if they are doing something familiar, but this is not a myth. Instead it is an effect called the mere exposure effect. It is defined as a psychological phenomenon where people have a preference for people or things simply because they are familiar. It can also be known as exposure effect and the familiarity principle. So the effect is saying that because you may not be in a place very familiar to you, you can still feel at ease when are doing something you are accustomed to.
As long as you feel the sense of belonging you can be home. This feeling doesn’t just have to come from things you do, my friends can turn into home too just because they are also there with me. I travel quite often, whether it is going to Florida or New York City. These places are not where I grew up, but with my family and friends they are “home.” Family and friends can convey the feeling of comfort and belonging. I could be anywhere in the world, but I know that if my family is with me or I have my friends, that place can turn into home just because they are also there with me. I travel quite often, whether it is going to Florida or New York City. These places are not where I grew up, but with my family and friends they are “home.”
I found a poem by an anonymous author who elaborates on the idea that home is where you feel most comforted. It is called Home: A Poem
Is it a little bit strange, how I can be far away, but feel so much at home?
Not once have I felt misplaced or rejected, only acceptance has been projected.
I continue to walk these unknown roads with ease, because every moment I know I will seize.
You see, home is not a place, but rather a feeling.
That warmth in your heart can go beyond just one ceiling.
So let yourself go, and be a child of the wind because only then will your soul have love to lend.
My home is filled with unfamiliar faces.
My home is strewn across so many places.
Open your mind and you shall see, no matter where you go, at home you will be.
The poem captures my ideas perfectly about how home doesn’t have to be a fixed place, it can just be the right feeling when you are doing something or with someone you truly enjoy.
As college students we are often leaving home for the first time, not knowing what to expect and feeling extreme homesickness. We will feel stressed, saddened, and possibly even depressed. When we start feeling this way we have to remember that home isn’t just our house, it is the familiar things that surround us. We are missing the normal routine we had for so long. So to make ourselves feel better we can just do things or see people that are comforting to us and help us feel the sense of belonging. For me that’s singing or talking to my family. For you it can be anything that will bring you that feeling of comfort because after all a house is just a building, home is that familiar feeling.
Fournier, Gillian. “Mere Exposure Effect.” psychcentral.com. PsychCentral, 17 July 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
Ho, Derrick. “Homesickness isn’t really about ‘home’.” cnn.com. CNN, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
Phillips, Jacqueline. “Mag.” Youtube.com. Youtube, 6 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
“U.S. Mover Rate Remains Stable at About 12 Percent Since 2008, Census Bureau Reports.” census.gov. 18 March 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.