I’ve shared room 205 with the same roommate for three years now. Early on, the two of us forged a haphazard sort of system to keep the room habitable. But we’ve never been neat about it. We’re close friends with the girls in the dorm room next door, and the four of us are constantly spreading ourselves out between the two spaces. The unique transiency of college has permeated our way of living, almost subconsciously, and we never seem to be all the way settled in.
I never imagined I would live in a place this messy. The closets in our room perpetually overflow. Empty Capri Sun juice pouches sit on the windowsill. There is a hole in the concrete block wall that we duct tape every year on move-in day, afraid of what would crawl through otherwise. Recently, my roommate’s birthday cake sat out on a plate for over a week, becoming crunchy before it occurred to us that we should throw it away.
My room at home, though, has become even more pristine since my absence. The walls are white and the closet is bare and the trash can is empty. At home, I wake up and am completely alone. But always, after I drive the four hours home and I sleep and wake in my own bed, I am more reminiscent for the noise than appreciative of the quiet. I miss has become the mantra of college breaks.
* * * * *
Home, for the first time in my life, is a fluid concept, always seeming to be where I am not. Family is even more ambiguous . My family, of course, includes my mom and dad, my brothers and sister, all of whom I deeply love. But if a family consists of the people who know where you are and love you despite it, then my family is also a cobbling of young adults, mere semesters away from dispersal. I still have close ties to the place in which I grew up, but each year they are changing. We are selling the house with the pristine bedroom, and I find myself largely apathetic. It is only a place to sleep.
The place in which I live from August to May is different. It is where life together is made rich and loud and colorful. After we move out, our beloved room with the hole in the wall and the small closets and the overenthusiastic heater will be exposed for what it is. There was nothing intrinsically special about those concrete blocks or the bedframes or the thin carpet; they were only bare spaces for us to learn to fill. They will be passed on to new freshmen, who will peel our duct tape off of the hole in the wall and solve the problem in their own way.
* * * * *
Next year, instead of sharing a dorm room, we will get an apartment, and we will decorate for our climactic last year together. We will hang colorful shower curtains. We will carry oversized couches up the stairs. We will string twinkle lights and maybe even make our beds for once. We’ll have roommate pasta dinners and Waffle Tuesdays. I’m just as excited as I am apprehensive for this brief, beautiful time together. The more I come to love where I am, the more I believe that it is home, the more it will hurt when the time comes to leave.
And yet, in this moment, this is my family, and this is my home.
* * * * *
“Hole in the Wall” was written by Veronica Toth. Veronica is a junior English major at Taylor University (located in approximately the middle of nowhere, Indiana). She’s grown to love cornfield country and especially the people who live there. She enjoys occasionally writing poetry and always using sarcasm. Veronica is pictured on the far left with three close college friends; they do not keep dorm rooms clean, but they do love each other. She blogs at Tasting Twice.
This is wonderful. As is everything you write.
Please publish a book soon.
Thank you for sharing this story with us. Wow! It brings back so many memories for this old lady. I loved my college years and the wonderful, wacky world of room-mates.
You are so wise to recognize that “home is a fluid concept, always seeming to be where I am not.”
Great piece, Veronica. The image juxtaposition between your home and your dorm room is so very fitting. I really understand and appreciated your thought on home being often where you are not, always somewhere else. I do hope you continue to find it in the present as you seem to be doing. It’s easy to think our best place is the place to come instead of living into the moment. I’m so very guilty of that. Thanks for sharing!
Good work, Veronica. Your reflection on what “home” means is deeply incarnational; it calls to mind the beautiful realism of Scott Russell Sanders, who wrote, “How could our hearts be large enough for heaven if they are not large enough for earth? The only paradise I know is the one lit by our everyday sun, this land of difficult love, shot through with shadow.”
Your reflections on the meaning of home, as a college student, take me right back to my own experiences with roommates and dorm rooms (and not much cleaning). I love your vivid descriptions as well as your more philosophical thoughts—especially this one: “Home, for the first time in my life, is a fluid concept, always seeming to be where I am not.”