Last Friday, I returned to my hometown to see my family for the first time since school started. It was good to see them and reunite with my friends as well. The hiatus from university life allowed me to reset my batteries — as much as possible, that is — after what had become a grueling seven weeks in Ann Arbor.
However, something felt different upon returning to my old stomping grounds. The air was crisper, the streets a bit quieter than I remembered and I felt a desire to soak every sensory detail in as if the moment of return would never occur again. It was nostalgic and sentimental, sure, but more than anything, I felt as if I had outgrown the place. I was not, and still am not, sure why.
“Ann Arbor just feels like home more to me,” Information and LSA junior Chris Hudson said.
As I entered my bedroom, I began to unzip my suitcase. Setting down my backpack, I removed my laptop from its travel case and unpacked all the school materials I needed to study over the next four days. Then, I headed downstairs to clean my water bottle, so it is fresh for when I returned to Ann Arbor. Then, the realization hit me: I was a visiting guest in my own house.
A few days later, I was advised by an upperclassman mentor to change the address on my resume to reflect my location in Ann Arbor. I thought nothing of it, casually deleting the address I’ve proudly held for 20 years and replacing it with the one I’ve had for two months. Part of me now wonders why the revision was so easy for me to make; for a simple line edit, the significance seems monumental.
On game days, I usually have family and friends come to visit. Either on the night before or after the game, I am grateful for the chance to show them around campus — where my classes are, my favorite places to eat, etc. Weirdly enough, it somehow feels like I’m a new homeowner, hosting a welcome party in my new digs. Ross is my office, Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall is my kitchen and the Michigan Union functions as my living room.
Now, writing this column, it’s dawned on me: the towns I’ve grown up in, including Ann Arbor, haven’t changed. I have. No longer am I the wide-eyed teenager going to Applebee’s after a game under Friday Night Lights, or Pizza House after a Michigan football game (actually, that part is still very much true). I am starting to become the guy whose home acts as a grounding influence from the daily grind of becoming a full-fledged adult.
I feel foolish admitting this after a short two months here, but it’s true. I have two homes, and one is increasingly feeling more comfortable than the other. It would be easy to attribute this to the University’s diverse array of opportunities, the structure of day-to-day life or even the people. But really, I just think that I have been ready to immerse myself in college life.
Except, I didn’t know it was ready for me. After spending my freshman year in my hometown studying remotely, I was worried that my chance to go out and explore the world would not arrive. Amidst a pandemic and without a bonafide solution at the time, I fell into the same routine I had in high school. I felt like a fifth-year high school senior who happened to take more rigorous courses.
Now, I am surprised that those eight months have not equated the idea of college to the setting of my native city. If anything, maybe that period has made the two mutually exclusive. Perhaps I am so excited to finally be on campus this year that I fully rebuke the idea of ever attending class from my childhood bedroom again.
Whatever the reason may be, I remain grateful for the foundation that my hometown provided for me. I will never forget “my roots” per se and will return periodically, but there is something to be said for growing up and moving on. Humans are innately nomadic; we were never meant to stay in one place all our lives.
For now, I declare that I reside in Ann Arbor. In a couple of years, that may change. But for the time being, I have realized that I am right where I want to be.
Sam Woiteshek is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.