Home is what you make it— and what you make it for other people. Different elements of your experience, the people in your home, and how you think about your space make it your home. Carleton has been my favorite home, but it is hardly home now. Opening my eyes to the reality of young adults has been alternatively full of despair and hope, frustration and joy.
Call me farmboy. Where I grew up, my 4-H club’s biggest event was the open horse show we ran, I learned to drive on a 1950s tractor (jes to be sure it wouldn’t go none too fast), and it seemed dirt roads were commonplace. Division St. pushes how much civilization I’m really comfortable seeing in one place. While studying abroad in Moscow, I was culturally out of my depth everywhere—even with my own program fellows, since I fit in better with the Siberians. If you want the full story, ask me about “The Big Wide Sky,” a country song I wrote.
My experiences have taught me that “home” means a number of things.
Home is where you spend time. For me, this had been my high school, since I frequently spent more time in a day at school than at my house. Then it was Carleton. Living, eating, working, exploring—freshman year was a magical time of finding a new perfect place for me. It was a utopia of interests and new, engaging people. Everywhere I spent time I could learn something and grow. And with how little I slept, one could almost say I spent more time here than most. I never went to town because I never needed to—Carleton was everything I wanted.
Home is where you feel comfortable. Carleton has taught me that buildings taller than four floors strip the world of its most precious attribute: the open skies and wind. The lonely rustle of a mile-distant car at night is too much traffic. I feel comfortable where the only tides are the ebbs of wind visible on grass and tree. I feel comfortable being able to walk from Musser to Goodhue on the chance day I can recognize and greet every single person I pass. I feel comfortable where the church bells ring, where I can sing with people likewise looking for a better world.
Home is therefore a viewpoint. I cannot stand the sight of cities and fear that people lose some of their humanity when they can’t walk on grass or see the stars at night. I expect people to treat each other with respect and expect even strangers to greet each other, but Carleton has taught me not everyone thinks this way. Not with those who construe “volume” as a tangible pulse that shakes an entire building.
Not with those who litter the signs of illegal consumption. Not with those who lose themselves in a drug-induced delirium so that they can’t even tell when they hurt themselves and others. That is unacceptable, and hinges not on administration or security, but on our ability to say so. I want to make Carleton home for me by seeking out beauty and searching for truth by asking my friends deep questions. I want it to be safe and pleasant for everyone. But when someone else wrecks that comfort that is your home, we have to put in the effort to make it ‘our’ home again. Home is more than what you’ve got: it’s what you leave behind.