My first year at UC Berkeley was everything I hoped it would be. I met amazing people, learned a multitude of new things and landed in a place I finally felt was my own. After various years of living a life I never felt I had complete control of, I finally felt like I had established myself somewhere. I enjoy who I’ve become at UC Berkeley. Though, absolutely nothing prepared me for the sinking feeling of returning to a place I felt like I no longer belonged to.
No one ever tells you about the strange feeling you get when you return home after establishing a sense of independence and belonging in a place so far from it. I felt like my life was now in Berkeley, where most of my friends and happiest memories reside, and coming back home felt like leaving that all behind. Home no longer felt like home.
On top of that, I felt it no longer belonged to me either. I didn’t hold the same interests or have the same taste anymore. The weather back home was now more extreme, the places I used to go to felt different, everything was suddenly solemn and dull — I felt like a changed person.
Coming back home for the summer made me feel stuck within this endless cycle of “in-between.” In-between semesters, in-between places to live, in-between stages of my life. I felt like a child under my mom’s roof again after spending months of my life doing things for myself. I would soon enough count the days until I could return to school (I know, crazy, right?) instead of cherishing my time back home.
Although I believe enjoying my time back home while I have it is important, I think it’s equally important to acknowledge that I — and any other college student also feeling a sense of imposter syndrome in their own home — am a changing person. We’re in a stage of significant growth, living within the years that prepare us for a life on our own, and it’s okay to feel as if we’re not the same person we left behind in our hometowns. It’s okay to feel as if home isn’t home anymore because we’re creating new senses of the word as we continue down our independent paths.
Once I stopped viewing summer break back home as another “in-between,” and instead as a part of the process in my growth, I stopped feeling stuck and lost in my hometown. I no longer needed to feel as if I belonged to it or it belonged to me, but instead cherished it for morphing me into who I am today. I hold onto my memories with my family and childhood friends and look to create more every time I come back to visit.
I look forward to the person I’m becoming and the successes I have set in my path, and I now attempt to look at my hometown as my safety net rather than a weight tethered at my ankle.
Contact Geneva Hopwood at [email protected].