And that’s okay.

As I made the three-hour trek back to Iowa City on Monday morning after a long weekend spent with my family, the familiar lyrics of Phillip Phillips’ song Home spewed from my car’s radio. As a freshman, I found the drive back to school to be daunting. Back I go to midterms, homework, papers, a part-time job, and all sorts of responsibilities. Great. I often questioned why I ever chose to go to school so far away from mom hugs, my queen sized bed, and Portillo’s. Why trade all of that in for a lofted bed, a heavy class load, and a dining hall, far-from-Chicagoan pizza?

As time passed at school, I started to understand how incredible the choice I had made really was. The beauty about growing up and going away to college is that you will begin to love people in other places. Those whom you treasure will no longer all live in the same area. Some are at your school, some are in your hometown, and some are scattered around the country and even overseas. This idea has forced me to realize that sometimes living out of a messy duffle bag beats living out of a neat dresser. Home can become a person or many people. It can become a feeling felt in many different places. Don’t be afraid to venture off to find that because home doesn’t only have to be your childhood house.

Now, as I stumble my way through sophomore year, I am beginning to understand that my definition of home is changing. Living off campus has allowed me the freedom to create my own space. There are no authoritative parents or RAs to enforce a curfew or extinguish my love of burning fall scented candles. I am responsible for myself and my own well-being. Everything in my apartment feels comfortable because I put it there. I decide which shelf my K-cups sit on. I decide which blanket I sleep with or if the windows stay open or closed. This tiny little nook is completely tailored to how I want to live.

Sure, my apartment doesn’t have mom hugs and it isn’t down the street from Portillo’s, but I think as college students there comes a time when those things get replaced. I may not have Portillo’s but I have a delicious burrito place less than 5 minutes away. I may not have mom hugs down the hall anymore, but I have extraordinary friends and over 100 sorority sisters who know how to brighten a bad day. I’ve started to replace what I miss most about home with ideas, objects, and people that more than fit the void.

As I continue on through college before finally setting foot into the scary adult world, my versions of home will continue to evolve. I look forward to discovering new places to call home, whether through studying abroad or visiting friends. I will always call the suburbs of Chicago home, but I now can also call Iowa City my home, too. The drive back to school is no longer a gloomy trip; it’s a bittersweet one. Although I may not be going home to my parents or my brother, I am going home to a family, just a different kind of one.

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