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Cold-Pressed: Is Home Where the Homework Is?

Opinion | March 17, 2016

The Facebook group “Avon in the Know” is a sociologist’s dream. Last year, an inspired member of my Avon, Ohio hometown (I’m thinking a 39-year-old, Dansko-sporting homemaker smoking her monthly cig in between little league double-headers) decided to create an online sharing platform for local events and news. Inadvertently, a masterpiece had been created.

Posted January 11: “Has anyone seen a deer running around Avon with an arrow through her neck?”

Last week: “Can someone explain why there’s a shallow grave on Route 83 and Kinzel Road?”

And possibly my favorite: “This morning I’m up and out extra early—coyote going through my garbage and found last night’s cake!”

Needless to say, I tend to poke a lot of fun at my suburban roots. People tend to be close-minded, subtly (yet not-so subtly) racist, and have an odd affinity towards Ted Cruz. Somerville definitely seems to fit my personality better. The overwhelming mix of stuck-in-2010 hipsters, lesbian owned and operated coffee shops, and urban millennial families and their plethora of babies has been inexplicably comforting to me. And yet, the city has never felt like home.

Let me explain. The other day, my friend told me she was going “home” after lunch. “Are you doing okay?” I questioned. It seemed surprising that she had not bothered to tell me sooner. I knew Connecticut was close, but it seemed like a bit of a jaunt for a mid-semester Tuesday. It took me a while to register that “home” referred to 218 Carpenter House—her dorm room.

A lot of my friends, I’ve begun to notice, also use this vocabulary when describing their living spaces. A relaxing weekend at home means watching countless movies on top of university-issued beds. Their childhood homes are now referred to as “my parent’s place.” Prior towns and cities have transformed into these awkward relics that only represent a former self.

I too thought I had moved past my childhood existence when coming to Tufts. My high school identity was false, exhausting, and involved maintaining perfectionism at all costs. What I resented the most was how my every move functioned as performativity. College would be the place where I could move past being a masculinity-obsessed varsity athlete, where gay-straight alliances were not banned by administration, where I could become a person instead of a persona.

But my tidy single in the Arts Haus is not my home. 35800 Ithaca Drive in Bentley Park, while being a stereotypical cookie-cutter home, stands out from the rest of the houses in our development. It’s not just “my parents’ home”—it’s still mine too.

And I kind of hate that. Boston certainly feels familiar at this point. I have decided that Revere Beach is somewhat relaxing in the winter. Everyone that seems Italian in Mike’s Pastry is actually Albanian, and therefore I can always count on them adding an extra cannoli to my order, gratis. And most importantly, everyone should understand that paying to ride the T is literally just a social construct. But it all remains foreign. I’ve tried to reason that all of the associated scholastic stress of university life has tainted my perception of Boston, or that living in three different dorms over two years has never allowed me to actually settle.

All of that may be true. But in the end, I think it all has to do with consistency. Life at Tufts, personally, has proven to be a time of unforgiving flux. Acing a paper seems to frequently preclude bombing a test the next day. Life at Tufts is saying “I’ve already put my winter jacket away for good” five different times. The shuffle of summer subletting and studying abroad only exacerbates stress.

My memories of home, then, seem like the only constant in my life. Sure it’s idealized and nostalgic, but my home in Ohio is steadfast; life at school ebbs and flows, constantly fleeting. And I’m scared of a life lacking stability. So maybe I’m in denial that a place as conservative and ideologically flawed as Avon, Ohio still seems comfortable. But it’s still my home at this moment and time. Along with the deer running around with an arrow through its neck.