A safe haven’s travel away from home

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My bed is my sanctuary. Throughout high school, I made a cozy dent in my bed every morning to mark my territory, signifying a place of serenity that I can wallow in at the end of the day. When in doubt, my family would look for me under seven layers of covers to find me cuddled up next to my Netflix show snacking on something sweet. My bed was my safe haven.

When I committed to UC Berkeley, I dismissed the idea of moving across the country. Time after time I remembered the prospect of ultimate autonomy in college, but I forgot that my home would be 3,000 miles away. I also forgot that my bed would be at an unattainable distance.

On an August morning, I wished farewell to Atlanta. Each goodbye was harder than the next, but my final goodbye was the only one that urged me to shed a tear. I lay in my bed clutching onto the frame, taking in the final moments of feeling at peace in my Alisa-shaped dent. I shed a tear for the loss of my bed. And then, I flew across the country for the beginning of my next four years.

The game of life got hard after a few months in college. After basking in my newfound freedom and flirting with Berkeley’s attractions, I found myself four weeks into college without one root cemented at UC Berkeley. Different personalities walked in and out of my life faster than I could take, blurring my vision to the people I gravitated toward most. I felt uncomfortable in my place at school, not knowing who would stick with me as a lifelong friend and who would be a temporary acquaintance. Taking classes online was the death of my attention span, and dodging COVID-19 felt like a part-time job. I was restless and lost, without a place to lie down that felt like it was made for me. Needless to say, I was treading water, barely keeping my head high enough to breathe.

So what is living away from home really like? A trial-and-error process. And I definitely made more errors than anything else.

I kept my windows open during the worst fires of the year, creating an ash cloud in my room. Simultaneously, I crammed nearly 40 people in my room to throw the sweatiest dorm party in history, and I accidentally kicked up the carpet, exposing myself to the concrete flooring of Clark Kerr in my most vulnerable, clumsy times. I have both physical and mental scars from my first couple of months of living away from home, but after a while, I pressed the reset button on my living style.

I told myself I would get better at living away from home. The truth was, the only thing holding me back was that I was not actively making Berkeley my new home.

I made myself a list of the things I must do every day to keep my head above water. From working out daily to getting on top of school, I unlearned and relearned a routine that I had left behind in Atlanta. Root after root, I began stabilizing myself at UC Berkeley through people and passions, and I built a support system with my peers that could catch me when life threw me a curveball.

However, it was not until I remembered my haven in Atlanta that I felt like I could complete my home in Berkeley. My bed. I was missing my Alisa-shaped dent in my bed.

So I bought my seven layers of covers and lay in my bed long enough to make the mattress form around me and not the other way around. I put on my Netflix show and snacked on something sweet, with my friends finding me in that position when I went MIA.

I realized that living away from home is an obstacle course you must run through to learn the hurdles in your way. I learned that balance is a construct, and every day is another day of juggling. Most importantly, I learned that the things that make you feel most at peace will not change whether you are home or in college, so you have to find those things in your new location after moving away from home.

My thing was my bed. I forgot how much a cozy bed changed my way of life and unwound me perfectly at the end of the day. I missed it and needed it to complete my renovation in my new home at UC Berkeley. Living away from home is hard, but with my safe haven, it got better.

A personal safe haven is all you need when you move away from home. It is just up to you to figure out what it is and how you can recreate it when you need a break from the fast pace of life.

Contact Alisa Steel at [email protected]