November 23, 2014

WALSH | A Love Letter to Home

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As I write this column, I am sitting on a plane barreling through the airspace between Guangzhou, China, and Phuket, Thailand. While I am indescribably excited for this year’s Thanksgiving Break, which will include tropical beaches and truly shameful amounts of Thai food, I find myself thinking of home.

Home for me is the small, humorously named village of Liverpool outside of Syracuse, New York. Compared to the sprawling mega-city of Beijing, where I have spent the past three months studying abroad, Liverpool and Syracuse are but tiny specks dotting the cow-laden countryside of Upstate New York. Growing up, I found any and every excuse to complain about my hometown, where it snows far too much and interesting things to do are sometimes hard to come by. I vowed to escape for college — Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, anywhere but home.

And look how far I got. While Cornell and Ithaca are worlds away from Liverpool in terms of culture and vibe, they are only a quick hour-long drive from my house. Attending Cornell has allowed me to deepen my love for Upstate New York in a brand new way. On a side note, it has also caused me to get incredibly good at defending against all those who despise the region’s baffling weather, excess of cornfields and post-industrial rust.

You see, I only began to love Liverpool when I left. The cliché is almost too much to believe, but it’s true. As I teeter closer and closer to the edge of adulthood, I am developing a heartbreaking nostalgia for my quiet little hometown. I miss the late night congregations at Denny’s at two o’clock in the morning because it was the only thing a bunch of juniors in high school could get away with on a Saturday night. I miss aimlessly wandering the simmering village streets in the summer doldrums. I miss killing time at the middle school’s dilapidated baseball dugout because we thought it was cool. I miss sneaking out all the way to Oswego just to go to parties. I miss chasing after the ice cream truck, climbing trees in the lake park and catching candy from the marchers in the Memorial Day parade.

To someone who grew up in New York City or another comparably fascinating place, I am sure that my childhood and teenage years seem depressingly boring. But anyone can understand my point here — no matter the amazing places we go and the life-changing experiences we have, nothing will ever replace the sugary-sweet memories of growing up in our hometown. We will never forget all of the things that our hometowns have given us over the years. For me, I will forever be grateful for my friends living only a few blocks away, being able to walk to school for nine years, a simply perfect public library and a host of beautiful traditions that I hope will last for decades to come.

This is not to say that having these experiences away from home are detrimental in any way. Actually, I would encourage all students, Cornellians and otherwise, to spend time away from home in another country and culture. My life in Beijing has been nothing short of wonderful, and I cannot believe that I have to leave exactly one month from today. Constant engagement with China’s people, culture and language has changed me for the better in ways I could have never imagined.

As I finish this column, I’m sitting in my hotel room at a beautiful compound mere feet from the Andaman Sea, and my thoughts of Liverpool have pretty much disappeared after an entire day of tropical bliss. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s this — keep your hometown close to your heart, but don’t let your nostalgia blind you to new opportunities and experiences. Visit home early and often, but keep your eyes forward in search of adventure.

Conna Walsh is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. A Word with Walsh appears alternate Mondays this semester.