Sophie Henry

In a few days, many of us will be home. We’ll be sitting in the bedrooms we used to have nightmares in, surrounded by the people we cried about them to. We’ll be driving down the streets we’ve driven down a million times, drinking coffee from the place that makes it like no other and listening to music on the station that’s been programmed into our cars since the first time we sat in that driver’s seat. But it won’t be the way it’s always been, because we’ve changed drastically since the last time we sat behind that wheel.

Home, for me, has never really felt like home ever since I left that day in late August, a world behind me and a new one at my feet. The people were the same ones I had always loved, the same ones I had grown up with and the same ones I know I am going to continue growing up with.

When I went back to Nashville for the first time, the house was the same, my pistachios still sitting on that shelf in the kitchen. And yes, so was that coffee joint where I learned to like coffee. But everything, despite being the same, was completely different. Maybe it was because I was completely different, and because I knew that I would never be the person I used to be, or because I’ll never really, really be able to call that place home again. Sometimes I feel like I’m a fool for even trying to pretend like I ever could.

But what about when we can’t call Yale home either? Sometimes, it feels like everyone’s adjusted better than you have, calling New Haven their “home away from home” after just a week of being here. People seem to have their new families established and their new favorite coffee shops that they’ll swear up and down by.

They have this new city memorized like the backs of their hands, comfortable like they’ve been here their whole lives, and you just don’t feel the same way. Maybe it’ll come with time, but this isn’t really home for you, so where does that put you? Floating, weightless, lost somewhere in between?

I wish I knew what the answer to this was. I wish there were more things I knew about making your place, about finding home, about carving something out of nothing. I don’t.

But I know that there is liberation in nomadism, potential in the midst of spaces. During these years, our identity is in flux, and there is stability in not being grounded. It’s refreshing to not yet be tied to a major and to still be able to engage with our friends from home because we aren’t bound to the ones here. We don’t have to forget our old selves in order to become who we want to be, and there is no ticking clock that decides when we have to find our home or identity.

It can feel like it is urgent to find a place we can unabashedly commit ourselves to and make a staple of our identity. We feel a rush to decide who we are and when and where we should be that person. We are polarized people, determined to be at one side or the other, and we hate living in liminal tension. We hate it so much that we are incapable of understanding the privilege of having the room to decide where we want to land.

This break, I will be talking to the friends I made here, no matter how many miles apart we are. I will be thinking of the life I have built here. I know that it doesn’t feel like home yet. Maybe it never will. But I’ll also be reconnecting with the people I have loved for years — back when Yale was not even a part of the conversation. I’ll be driving down the streets I’ve always driven down. And this place where I once felt totally myself won’t feel completely like home either. And that’s okay.

I am myself in both those spaces. Whether due to sheer adaptation or a genuine appreciation, I have come to cherish the feeling of being weightless and — quite literally — neither here nor there. I know that I’ll land one day, and that in the meantime, I have the gift of making sure it’s at the right place.

DEREEN SHIRNEKHI is a first year in Davenport College. Her columns run on alternate Thursdays. Contact her at dereen.shirnekhi@yale.edu .