you have to (and can) build it

When people ask me what, in the last 2(ish) years of my time here at the University of Georgia, I am most proud of, I have found that the answer is easy: the friends I interact with and the things I pour myself into all make up a home in Athens, GA--that I am forever excited to experience. While it may be easy to say now, it was not so easy to create. I didn’t stumble upon a new home when I left for college. I had to build it.

Take a look at your physical childhood home. Someone had to build that house, you or a previous owner, they bought a piece of land, hired a contractor and drew up blueprints. It took months for the foundation to get set, the walls to go up, the plumbing, electricity and air conditioning to be installed. Then you had to move in, start putting things in it, a bed, a desk, pictures on the walls. Now, there’s been sharpie on that desk for years because of a botched art project you thought was a good idea back before you realized you will never be an artist. There’s the mark on the far wall of your bedroom from when you threw your shoe in a rage at age 11 because you still didn’t get a dog for Christmas. The couch in the basement holds the memory of every one of your first kisses and you can’t walk into the kitchen without smelling your dad’s brunswick stew whether it was made just yesterday or it’s been over a year. It feels like home because you turned it into one.

So of course the same has to be true for people and places. The new friends you have made won’t be home to you just yet, and that’s okay. You will lose a few people before you will gain your forever, ride-or-die, feels-like-home kind of people. No, your roommate you met a month ago won’t feel like home until it’s 6am and neither of you have slept and you’ve both cried about someone or something or each other. It’s the same thing, you have to build the relationships the way your house was built. You’ve dragged each other home after one (or five) too many drinks downtown probably more than once. There have been countless caffeine-fueled conversations on politics or childhood trauma or Instagram or all of the above. Memories go up on the walls of your friendships the same way pictures do. And then suddenly you look at each other and there are scars and celebrations and a feeling you’re always ready to go home to.

Even when it’s time to leave you never really do, because once a person or a place or a moment becomes home then just leaving doesn’t change that. All leaving means is the opportunity to build bullet points on the list of things you can run back to when it’s been too long. So keep building, it’s the only way you’re ever going to belong anywhere.