Throughout my 25 years on this earth, I’ve lived in four places that I can, without a doubt, call “home.”
The first is my actual hometown of Whippany, NJ. I have lived in Whippany since I was three years old. I grew up there, I went through the school system, I have lived in 3 different houses within the town, and it’s the easiest place to call “home” (probably because I’ve lived there for so long).
The second is my “work hometown” of Livingston, NJ. The first three years of my life were actually lived in Livingston, but during the 22 years I have not lived in the town, I have worked ~10 years in the community newspaper, my family’s business. Because of this, I generally know more about what’s going on in Livingston than I do in Whippany. In addition, I have family in Livingston, so many holidays and celebrations are spent there.
The third, and the one that sparked this blog post is Lock Haven, PA, where I spent four and a half years completing my B.A. in English. (More on Lock Haven after point four.)
The fourth and final place I call home is Walt Disney World. I always felt “home” in the Disney parks, as my family spent many vacations there growing up. But after having the opportunity to live, learn, and earn in Walt Disney World for over six months in 2014, “home” took on a new meaning (on which I could write about a thousand posts). When I go back to visit, now, after my time there, I still feel like I live there. It’s “home” figuratively, and will most likely become “home” literally, next year.
So back to Lock Haven, the reason for this post.
The very first time I ever visited Lock Haven, PA, I was a 17 year old high school student taking a first look at where I would potentially pursue higher education. It was the first school I looked at, and as soon as we crossed the railroad tracks and I got my first glimpse of campus (interestingly, the PUB and backside of Ulmer), I knew Lock Haven University was where I wanted to be. My mom reminded me that this was the first on a list of seven schools to visit over the summer of 2007, but even as I looked at those six other schools, I knew Lock Haven was my place.
Fast forward to August 2008. Move-in day. Even after my room was unpacked and my family left, I felt comfortable. I was ready for the next four years. And really, it wouldn’t actually be four years, right? I’d have summers at home, I’d have breaks at home…
Until Lock Haven became home. I went home for breaks and the occasional weekend, but after my sophomore year, I started spending summers there. I had three jobs over the course of my four and a half years in Lock Haven, all of which I was able to extend through summer sessions while I took a few extra classes. My junior year house and both of my senior year apartments became pieces of my life that I will never forget. And on campus, Starbucks, Bentley, Raub, the library, East Campus, Russell — all of it became an integral part of my life.
During the fall of 2012, my last semester at Lock Haven, I burned out. I got sick of Lock Haven. I went home-home, or up to my (at the time) boyfriend’s family’s home just to get away from it. I was tired of the school, the people, the drama, the workload… all of it. After I graduated, I packed up my apartment and didn’t look back. I think I visited once the following spring, and once the following fall, and both times I felt the stress as soon as I crossed those same railroad tracks that I did on my first visit. I wanted nothing more to do with the place I felt so strongly about just a few short semesters prior.
I didn’t visit for the bulk of 2014, mostly because I was living in Florida. But I also had no desire, no drive. From what friends were saying, departments that were near and dear to my heart were having borderline crises. Having done my time of stressing over budget cuts and other departmental drama, I wrote a letter to the dean, and then I disassociated. Which, of course, was easy to do from almost 2,000 miles away.
And then I did go to visit in the fall, to support a show being directed by a friend of mine, and to see fellow alumni who I hadn’t seen in over a year. I didn’t expect to sit around for hours reminiscing with my friends, but that’s exactly what we did; after the show, we sat on the floor of the lobby of a building that was so close to our hearts, and just talked. For hours. About the shows we’d done, about things that had changed, about the drama that ran through the theater department over and over again. I left Sloan that night feeling closer to Lock Haven than I’d felt in years, and I couldn’t wait for my next trip.
This past weekend, I went back again. A day or two before I left, it was announced the Russell Hall, a building that I had fond memories of, would be slated for demolition. I went into my weekend sad about the upcoming changes to campus, but an afternoon with my best friend and then a walk around campus made me feel a little better about things. And between reminiscing (again) in Bentley and then later at Al’s (a student-favorite Lock Haven bar), and then the next morning at the Texas, for hours and hours, remember things I hadn’t thought about in years, it was no wonder that as I was driving on 220 to 80, back to NJ, I felt some tugs on my heartstrings.
What I’m getting at, here, is that “home” can have so many definitions. I remembered this past weekend exactly why I called Lock Haven home at one point in my life, and probably will always thing of it that way. While this semester is probably the last one that will bring me to visit (I’m going back in April, but I also realize that I know fewer and fewer current students with each semester that goes by), I think I’ll always consider Lock Haven a place to love, and a place to call home. For four and a half years of my life, it WAS home. I learned more about myself in the time I was there than I probably leared at any other point, and I made memories I’ll never forget. Lock Haven was my first journey on my own, and will always have a place in my heart.