Home is where I eat turkey with friends

When seeing this building every day gets old, that's when I have to leave.

Less than one week until Thanksgiving — but I’m not coming home. For the first time in 21 years of life, I will be spending a major family holiday away from my family. Perhaps this is real-world training for the rest of my life, if/when I do not live comfortably close to the people I love most.

As strange as it seems, Thanksgiving — all of things — is making me consider what happens after this semester and even after graduation. I have options, and I’m not chained to Seattle. I think I’ve proved that this year, first by coming to D.C., and now by deciding to stay. After graduation, I have even more opportunities; I can apply for a job anywhere. I can go wherever I want to go.

But would I? Those of you who know me well may know that my mom is absolutely my best friend. My dad is my role model — in work, in life at home, in the way he treats us, everything he does. My sister is my inspiration. My brother is the source of my laughter. My dog — yes, I consider him family — is my most unwavering supporter. Could I leave that permanently to pursue a career/a love/a life somewhere else?

Probably. But it’s something I honestly had not considered before this semester. After all, I only ever loved Seattle, but I also had never lived anywhere else. Part of what kept me in Seattle was knowing that I could go home whenever I wanted. But now that I have lived in D.C., a city so different from my hometown, I realize that I can put down roots and thrive in even the most unlikely conditions.

After all, I expected to hate it here. I expected to be lonely, unwelcome, and desperate to get home. And as you might have guessed, I’m not.

Of course, at points throughout the semester it has been hard for me to  be so far away from home. Yet, the people I’ve met here — the great love of the friends I’ve found — help me every day, whether they know it or not. They’ve made it home for me.

And the same is true of my friends and family at home in Washington state. No one will replace the place they have in my heart; they are home to me.

What am I trying to say here? It’s a bit sentimental for a blog written this early in the morning, but I guess I’m just pondering the importance of geographic location when it comes to relationships, as I prepare to spend Thanksgiving away from my family and as my new friends prepare to leave D.C. a few weeks from now.

Perhaps one is preparing me for the other. I’m sad that I won’t be home for Mom’s turkey, Dad’s family-recipe “butter dips” or Uncle Dan’s day-after turkey soup, but I know that my relationships with those people do not depend on this one shared meal. Similarly, my relationships here do not depend on this place — Washington, D.C. — but on the shared experiences and memories that we’ll always have.

And one of those experiences will be a very merry Dellenback Thanksgiving.

But now that I’ve left home to come here, what happens when “home” leaves me? It’s easy to feel abandoned already, because I’ve realize that part of what I love about D.C. is the group of friends I have here. I’ll make new friends next semester, I’m sure (well, I hope!), but they won’t replace my friendships this semester.

I guess what’s hardest to realize is that, after December 10, the people I love in this place will all travel back to their respective homes — Alabama, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New York, Alberta, and many others — and I will stay here. Next semester will bring a different kind of homesickness, a desire to return to what was before, even as I remain in the same place.

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