I have a confession to make. I have never experienced an Illinois State University homecoming.
That never really bothered me until this year.
Everyone always talks about the memories they’ve made and the good times they have shared at past homecoming festivities, and I always feel kind of sad knowing I never had the same experience.
Every year when homecoming rolled around I always had plans. Freshman year I spent my weekend at Augustana College, the following year I was at Mizzou and last year I went to the University of Alabama for a football game. I sat in the front row behind the end zone.
It was the most fun I have ever had on a college campus.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets. But when I really think about it I realize that while I was immersed in other schools’ culture and traditions, I cared a little less about my own.
In high school, homecoming was something I always looked forward to. I would help decorate the halls, pick the theme, participate in all the activities.
As I’ve grown older I feel like the magic of celebrations has died a little. Holidays and celebrations don’t seem as special. Maybe it’s a part of growing up, or maybe it’s just me.
The first few years of college were tough for me. I went to small, private schools growing up so I always knew everything about everyone. Sometimes a little more intimately than I would have preferred.
Regardless, I always had a tight-knit group of friends. When I came to ISU, that was a lot harder for me to find. My few friends that I came to ISU with all branched off, joined sororities and found new friend groups.
I still remained friends with them and even got to know their new friends too, but it wasn’t the same.
I started to feel a little lost and out of place. With half of my life at ISU and the other half still clinging to home, I found myself in a weird in-between phase in my life.
I’m the type of person who can’t stay in one place for too long. My mom always jokes that when I was born I jumped out of the womb, ready to conquer the world.
I’d always laugh, but never really took it to heart.
With homecoming week in full swing, it has me thinking, what is home?
I always thought I had the perfect idea of what home was.
To me, home was coming back from a long day of school on a crisp fall afternoon to a warm home, fresh baked cookies and a home cooked meal being prepared.
Home was racing to the kitchen table, sliding on the hardwood floor in my fuzzy socks to get to my chair first and fighting with my sister over who got to wash and who got to dry and put away the dishes. I somehow always got stuck with washing.
Being away at college, my idea of home slowly started to fade from my memory. I have never truly felt settled at ISU until this year.
After spending an entire summer on campus alone, I have grown to appreciate the beauty and amazing opportunity that this school has given me. I’ve met so many amazing, influential people and I’ve never felt more at home.
I have come to realize that home is not a place. Home is a feeling.
I’ve found a home at ISU and I can’t wait to celebrate it for the first, but certainly not the last time.