When I turned twelve, I moved to a little town in southwest Michigan. Prior to that, I was used to switching schools every two years due to my parents’ work, so when I learned that this little town was the final destination, I was disappointed. I had dreamed my whole life to be able to finally settle down in one place, to not have to get used to a new environment, learn new names and try to navigate the place on my own. However, these weren’t really big issues there. My middle school was just across the street from my high school and my house only a ten-minute walk down the street. My best friend lived two houses down from me, and my other best friend, at the end of our same neighborhood. My dentist was right behind my high school, my bank right in front of it, and my doctor right next to them. My first job was an ice cream place which was a 5-minute drive from my house and a 2-minute walk away from the second job I picked up after I quit the first. The store was the only option for me and my friends to hang out outside the house other than the beach where we could only go in the summer. There is no place I haven’t seen in the eight years I’ve lived there and I’m pretty sure I can name every single person by name and last name.
Despite everything being so near, there is hardly ever anyone walking down the street. Everything is done with a car. Want to visit my friend just at the end of the neighborhood? Drive. Want to go to the library right behind my house? Drive. Want to get some ice cream from the store across the high school? Drive. My daily routine involved going to school, staying after school for whatever club I was in, hanging out with my friends at the store, then going home. On the weekend, if we really felt adventurous, we would drive a whole seven miles to the next city’s downtown. Then, we would get a drink or something to eat, hit the grocery store again, then go back home. I have never had to get Life360 or any other tracking app, as anyone who wanted to find where I was could easily ask around and find at least one person who saw me drive by.
I couldn’t wait to finally get out.
I never thought I would miss anything about my small little town once I moved out for college. I counted the days until I would be able to explore Ann Arbor, get bubble tea delivered to me instead of driving 45 minutes every time I craved it and walk among people in the streets instead of only seeing cars passing by. I wanted to have a choice to go out for karaoke, take a walk through the Nichols Arboretum or watch a play. I looked forward to going to classes and having to go to different buildings and see different parts of campus. I couldn’t wait to make new friends and see people from all around the world and walk among them. Even the idea of having my own home and not worrying about living according to someone else’s schedule was something I looked forward to. I made a list of all the clubs I would join, all the places I would visit and all the food I would try. Compared to my home, Ann Arbor seemed like paradise. Sure, I would miss my family (and my cat), but I looked forward to actually having things to do, places to be, to never be bored again. I also couldn’t wait to attend a college 45,000 times more populated than my hometown. Even some of the lectures would have more people than in my town.
As I sit on my bed writing this, sick, trying to get over another coughing fit and barely keeping my eyes open, I can’t help but miss my little home. Even as my fingers are busy typing, my eyes keep wandering to my to-do list:
- Buy flu medicine and cough syrup
- Get more tissues
- Make soup
- Do laundry
- Study for exams
- Attend club meeting
- Finish writing paper
- Call off work?
It is in moments like these that I can’t help but see the comfort of living around everything I would ever need no further than five miles away. I miss seeing familiar faces, and I even miss their nosy questions. They would have asked how I was. They would have noticed I missed a day at school. They would have been worried I missed a whole week. I would have found some brownies at my doorstep. Or some hot soup. Or a bag of cough drops. I would have been able to go out on a short walk outside to stretch my legs and pick up everything I needed in less than ten minutes. It is when I feel so small, so weak, that I miss the comfort of being enveloped by everything familiar in the little rectangle that is my hometown.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up with college life, with the beauty of Ann Arbor and everything it has to offer. I was told that Ann Arbor would soon feel small after a couple of months on campus and I still fear the day it would feel as small as my hometown. I like being around new people and I love how there’s just so much to do. But just like a comfort blanket, I will forever be grateful for having my own little comfort blanket. What seemed like a suffocating environment turned into my place of comfort.
MiC Columnist Maria Alshourbagy can be reached at email@example.com.