Home: the subject of many late-night common room conversations, meetings with your residential college dean — or your mental health counselor, if you can get an appointment — and a myriad of Yale Daily News opinion pieces written by first years. There comes a time in our first year when, ostensibly because of a slip of the tongue, we call Yale “home” while walking back to our dorms. It feels like a betrayal: You have family, friends and memories linked to another place, a place you’ve called home for years. How could you call Yale home if you’ve only lived here for three months? Surely, it’s just a mistake — nothing could replace “real” home.
But it feels like an even worse betrayal when, inevitably, you are at your “real” home, and, when asked when you’ll return to Yale, you respond “I go home in two weeks.” In my mind’s eye, I can still see my mom’s pursed lips, her heart smarting at the unconscious remark let loose from my lips. How could I have made such a careless mistake? Wasn’t I already home, surrounded by family, friends and everything else that had meant home for all of my life?
On the one hand, what it means to be “home” is more complicated than considering friends, family and memories. I’ve found that, while in Texas, I miss the verve of Yale, the cacophony of classes, and the constant hum of life and activity that permeates the brick and mortar of every space on campus. I miss friends who “get” me, people and professors who inspire me and problems that challenge me.
But, when I’m in New Haven, I miss the tranquility of home; the comforts of my own bed, fit with my favorite sheets; and my pool filled with cold water that helps me to escape from the hot Texas sun. More than anything, I miss the people who really “get” me, the people who make me laugh harder than anyone else can, the ones who love me like nobody else, going so far as to help me achieve my dreams often at the expense of their own. But for me — and, I’d venture to say, for many people on this campus — neither place is as idyllic as we make it out to be.
I came to Yale for a reason. I wanted to escape the small pond of the Rio Grande Valley and enter the sea of the Ivy League. I was sick of conversations that quickly devolved into gossip, tired of hearing about who was in the hospital, tired of listening to stories about all the hypocrisy and ignorance of other people. I was tired of caring about things that seemed so insignificant, like whether or not I went to pep rallies. I wanted the freedom to make my own decisions, have my own opinions and cultivate a persona that is more reflective of who I really am.
Yale has given me unimaginable opportunities. Two weeks ago, I conducted my first ever interview with a former United States senator. On a daily basis, I am able to learn from extremely talented professors and fellow students. It never ceases to amaze me that I have access to so many privileges and opportunities — my life truly is like a dream come true.
But I’ve realized that going to a school with a big name isn’t the end-all, be-all of my existence. I’ve learned that even geniuses can be mean-spirited, that intelligence and ambition can be used for ill and that, at the end of the day, we are all just people, mortal and sometimes primal in our behavior. Gossip is just as prevalent here as it is at home, and I still seem to care about things that I claim to find insignificant. Ironically, I find that I know far less about myself than I thought I did before. In many ways, Yale has some added benefits, but other drawbacks leave me in a similar place as my traditional home.
If I want to be at home when I am at Yale and at Yale when I’m at home, then where is home? I think that home exists in our minds and in our hearts, and we are on a perpetual journey to actualize it for ourselves once and for all. The fulfillment of this quest may not ever be realized, but does that make it any less important or pressing? For now, I’ll continue to put up pictures in my single and wait for the day when I can rest my head on my cold blue pillow, re-open old books and laugh at group messages of the year past, but, at any given moment, I know I’ll be thinking of home.
Adrian Rivera is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .