December 4, 2019

DERY | Home: A Futile Attempt to Resume Life Before College

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While America pretends that turkey is edible every Thanksgiving, my hometown friends and I unapologetically devour plates of delicious home-fried chicken. Last week, we perched ourselves on the familiar living room couch, cheered as we watched the Cowboys lose and grasped ketchup bottles in-hand: a refreshing tradition that started long before college. Back then, what I now revere as my hometown traditions were the standard.

So, by the time I visited home over this break, after planning my days and nights in advance, after hyping-up “the return” for weeks, it all seemed contrived, almost artificial — canned like the gravy we weren’t eating. I felt out of place at home for the first time.

After all, within a few days, we’d all be resuming our separate college lives as if we never left our dorms. Thanksgiving break’s five-day window of home life tasted more bittersweet than the long days of the summer that preceded it: a time when I had no bigger or better things planned than to lay in the bed I now so desperately crave. That same August, when I received my first Sun issue in print and read Christian Baran ’22’s “No Place Like Home,” it was only natural that I could hardly relate to his longing for home. At the time, I was preoccupied with excitement and nervousness for leaving mine in the fall. In those days, what I sought as “bigger and better things” were my ticket out of suburban boredom. Only now I realize how detached I was from Baran’s reality and how unaware I was of my fate.

Four months later, I can no longer look at home in the eye; now, I put it on a pedestal from afar. When I visit, I force myself to cherish the same rooms and halls that I had only casually walked across a few months before. I convince myself that attempts to relive memories with friends will fill in for gaps of months apart. But it’s no use. Moving to Cornell has condemned me to be a visitor in my own home. Each coming break is just as much a necessary change of pace as it is a teasing glimpse into memories that can never be duplicated. Perhaps the extra school breaks I constantly fantasize about would only further blur the lines of what has become of my home — and if I fit into it anymore.

Back in high school, when the already graduated friends I looked up to would visit our alma mater’s locker-stricken halls, I perceived their gesture as a favor to us students. I admired their willingness to catch-up on our lives back home. I appreciated their curiosity to know what had and hadn’t changed while they were gone.

But soon enough, upon my return home, I now step into those shoes I once idolized. Last week, as I reconnected with friends still attending my high school, I found myself in need of them far more than they needed me — despite their frequent college application questions. I needed them to fill me in on any drama I missed. I needed them to assure me nothing much had changed in the clubs we had both joined. More than anything, visiting home is my ticket to a past I can’t revisit in any other way.

Nonetheless, this Thanksgiving break, my friends and I agreed it was too much, too soon to walk the now-sacred halls of our high school, to pace the classrooms where we first met and to visit the atrium where we ate our first few lunches from the cafeteria’s bagel gold-mine. We all knew it would always feel too soon, but we neglected to dissect our excuse and pretended nothing had changed from last summer. So instead of facing the past and turning the page, we rolled fried wings in ketchup.

I revere the past from hundreds of miles away, but with each break that returns me to the place and people that compose it, I close my eyes out of fear of what has permanently changed. To me, home is a time and place whose memories have earned the pedestal upon which they stand.

I can only hope that one day, when I return to visit The Hill, I still rush with that same fear of change. Only then will I know that Cornell has become home, whose memories I place on a pedestal far above Cayuga’s waters.

Roei Dery is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at rdery@cornellsun.com. The Dery Bar runs every other Thursday this semester.