Sophie Henry

It’s November, not quite Thanksgiving, and there are six Christmas trees in my house of various sizes and mediums. For your reference, dear reader, that’s five more than were here last year. Even the original tree has been replaced as a result of its unfortunate tendency to valiantly shred the life out of anyone who came near it, like an angry but festive six-foot-tall cat. It’s one of the not-so-small things that’s changed about our house while I’ve been at college, and as I glance at the empty space where my backpack used to live during high school, I wonder what else has changed.

There are two things you should know about growing up in Texas. 1. It takes less time to watch “Avengers: Endgame” three times in a row than it does to drive across it.  2. Just like Old Campus, it’s incredibly far away from my Murray dorm room. As a result, Thanksgiving break was the first time I’ve been home since moving to Connecticut. I spent time with my family, returned my room to its usual state of messiness — sorry mom — partook in my favorite foods, experienced the Texas sunsets I’d been missing and realized that I finally had a little bit of an answer to the questions that my senior-year-self spent so much time thinking about.

“Hiraeth” has always been one of my favorite Welsh words, and it doesn’t have a direct counterpart in English. It refers to a profound longing for home. It was a concept that I was thinking about quite a bit during my last months of high school. I had thought of my life thus far as a collection of threads woven together. Every person, every memory, every place, every moment spins a new one, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to that collection of strings after I left for college. Do the threads keep weaving on their own, or do they unravel without you there to see it through? When you leave a home, is the space you leave behind still there when you come back, and if it does, do you still fit in it?

Just before the break, I met with the dean of my residential college for our semester check-in. He asked me if I thought I’d changed since starting college, and I’m relieved to say that the answer was yes. Towards the end of high school, I promised myself in a poem that I was going to be kinder to myself in college, and I’ve managed to keep that promise so far. If I could, I’d reach back in time to my senior-year self and tell her that the title of the Spotify playlist I made to commemorate the end of high school was right. “It isn’t so daunting anymore,” because college has been full of moments where I’ve really felt like I belong somewhere.

I exchanged roadmaps with my Cultural Connections family, made a small mural of sticky notes with my roommate on our shared door, experienced the beginnings of fall in New England on an apple-picking trip, bonded with my classmates over labwork and p-sets, argued a lively debate over the difference between a sandwich and a hot dog and did impromptu karaoke to “Country Roads” with the people who have become my closest friends since coming to Yale, and in my entirely unbiased opinion, I think we could rival the Whiffenpoofs.

This all came back in a rush during the break when I found myself standing in the middle of my bedroom at home. In that moment, I remembered all the echoes of my past self that had spent time within these four walls, studying for tests and reading my favorite books and writing stories on my laptop. Like the number of Christmas trees in my house, I’ve changed a little, but I’m still carrying my past selves with me. They’re just as much a part of me as anything else, especially the one who folded a promise in a poem all those months ago.

Elizabeth Watson served as a Science & Technology Editor for the News. She previously covered breakthrough research as a staff writer and illustrates for various sections. Elizabeth is a junior in Pauli Murray College double majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (E&EB) and Humanities.