Column: A house is not always a home
I am a list-maker, avid sticky note user and my planner is glued to me at all times. I like making plans going into situations. Going into college, I had a lot of plans.
Plans are great because they make you feel like you have some control in an inherently chaotic world. Unfortunately, as we all know, plans do not always work out the in the way we hope they would.
I am also a homebody. Going away to college and leaving home was simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding challenges I have faced. Coming to MSU, I hoped to find my “home away from home” while living on campus. One of my many plans was to live for two years in the dorms, followed by two years off campus.
Every freshman lives in the dorms and after two years — even though the dorms did not feel quite like home — I hoped I would adjust enough to college life to survive living outside the safety of the dorms. Then maybe it would feel like home.
When I looked for housing options my sophomore year, very shortly after settling in for my second year in Snyder Hall, I fantasized about living in a house with some close friends. My dream became a reality when I signed to live with three other girls in a cute blue house close to campus.
The promise of freedom from tiny dorm rooms and hiking to the commuter lot every time I needed to drive my car was there. I thought for sure moving into an actual house would fulfill my desire for that feeling of “being home.”
This is where my plan failed. The wake-up call from this dream came with raking leaves, shoveling snow, remembering to bring in the trash cans from the street, paying bills every month and constantly shuffling cars in the driveway.
Despite having a color-coded chore chart, it seemed like a new conflict arose between my roommates every week. What we lacked in communication and accountability, we made up for in passive-aggressive text messages or untouched piles of dishes in the sink.
You could feel the tension throughout the house some days. I found myself going home more frequently, staying at friends’ places or even spending hours at the gym because I felt more at home on a bike than I did in my own house. I felt like I was constantly searching for comfort and security in my house and never could quite find it.
I thought after my roommates moved out for the summer, I would thrive having the house to myself and could make it feel more like my home. Sadly, my plans once again changed when my newfound solitude also meant I had to handle messes, bills and scary noises at 1 a.m. by myself.
I slowly came to the realization that no place was ever going to feel exactly like the home in which I grew up.
Going into my fourth year of housing, I wanted to stick to my plan and stay off campus, but make a few adjustments. Despite my longing for community baths and meal plans, I knew I had outgrown living with another person six feet away.
I decided to move into an apartment instead of seeking out another house because overall, it seemed like less to worry about. Though the space is smaller, there is less to clean, it’s more secure and we have a pool right outside. I thought maybe without the larger responsibilities and drama of living in a house, I might be able to find home.
I experienced many unplanned difficulties living in a house off campus while learning those crucial lessons of life. Plans do not always go your way and sometimes — regardless of how hard you try — you fail to make everyone happy. Sharing space with people is messy. Everyone has needs, likes, dislikes and their own breaking point. I learned to make compromises to accommodate four people in one house without losing my own values.
In all of this, it was difficult to find “home,” but my house experience helped foster the idea of home as a feeling, not necessarily a place.