January 31, 2019

BARAN | No Place Like Home

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Home for Fall Break. For Thanksgiving. For the deliciously long Winter Break. Back to familiar haunts, faces and foods. The mildly annoying barrage of “back at it” Snapchats and Instagram posts. The twinges of simultaneous sadness and excitement when it comes time to drive or fly all the way back to Ithaca. The dread of the snowy, gloomy Ithaca weather (or, for all those New Englanders, the routine, humdrum Ithaca weather). There’s really nothing like going back to your hometown. Going to college has made me appreciate that.

At the same time, though, I’ve met a number of people here at Cornell without a hometown. Many of the friends I’ve made have moved around the country several times. Some are part of military families, others have family members with jobs that require extensive travel and others can give no real reason for their itinerant childhoods. The common thread seems to be a lack of connection to a place, a hometown.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These people are perfectly happy, and certainly more cosmopolitan than I am. They got to experience varied styles of living and meet diverse groups of people. Small talk is a breeze for them; although they can’t talk about a specific place with people, they can list off the places where they have lived and the reasons why they jumped around so often. After college, they don’t feel tied to one place, and as such are free to take a job anywhere. They might feel closer to their families, since family has been the one stable element in their lives.

But these same people don’t feel the bittersweet connection with a town or city. They can’t know the feelings that accompany coming home. Little flashes of happiness, longing and pain for moments you can’t get back mixed with excitement for what’s to come.

The red-roofed church where your grandpa is buried. The field where you took your first girlfriend to look at the stars. The roads you know you can (but don’t try to) drive blind. The church where your family spent most Sunday mornings. The friends you’ve known for your whole life. The decrepit ice rink where you sweat and laughed with your hockey teammates all winter, every winter.

It’s hard to build a place like that in just a few years. But once you do, it stays with you. Some people that have such a place want to leave and never come back. I know some people that feel bored by their hometowns. Newer, more exciting places call to them. Others love their homes. They yearn to return after they finish their studies, or otherwise at the first chance that presents itself. Whatever the case, a hometown has a way of sticking in one’s mind. Homesickness rears itself as a whole different beast.

I miss my hometown, as you can probably tell by now. I can’t wait to go back this summer. But I’ve discovered that Cornell presents an opportunity to make another one. Not a replacement, just another one. And yes, yes, I know this contradicts what I said about it being hard to build a hometown in a short amount of time. But college is a unique environment. Your friends, work, fun and home are all located in one campus. The high-stress milieu binds us together faster than we would otherwise. Our relationships to each other and to Cornell are forged in the iron crucibles of cold, prelims and 2 a.m. stops at CTB.

So, for those of you who have never had the opportunity to build a hometown, take a look around. If you can get past the “hate” part of your relationship with Cornell, you have one here. The boundless opportunities here make it easy to build a community on which you can look back with nostalgia in 30 years.

Christian Baran is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. Honestly runs every other Friday this semester. He can be reached at cbaran@cornellsun.com.