By Salynda Hogsett
“We’ve come upon a situation, and I need to free up some spaces on your floor soon.
“I need you two to make a move. The good news is that you’ll be staying on the 3rd floor either in apartment 304 or apartment 308. I’ll need you two to get together to decide which room you will use together and let me know soon.
“We very much appreciate your cooperation on this.
This obviously isn’t the original email. I edited it a little bit, but you get the idea. On the Tuesday of midterm week, I was being asked to possibly move apartments. I immediately emailed the other girl the email had been sent to, asking if there was a time we could get together and figure something out. She didn’t respond, and I got an email an hour later from Mr. Strutter (not his real name, but I think it fits him perfectly) saying that since she had gotten in touch with him first, saying that since she “really didn’t want to move houses,” I would have to move in with her.
It was like wearing rollerskates and one foot starts rolling away while the other stays in place. You find yourself on the floor, in an awkward split, trying not to cry in public.
Up until that point, I had a room to myself. I could spy on my friends who had a townhouse across from my dorm as they smoked on their front porch. Since the room was originally for two people, I had two of everything: two shelves for my plethora of books, two beds for when friends came to visit, and (best of all) two wardrobes. I had arranged the desks so that I could have a two-sided workspace.
The only problem was that I was the only person there. The two girls in the other half of the house were German exchange students with their own friend group, culture, and language. I was pretty sure they talked about me in German, just so I wouldn’t know what they were saying.
Though I loved the room, I ended up spiraling down into a depression because of the isolation that came with it. Not that I was ever diagnosed and not that I ever got so deep into it that I couldn’t get out of bed, but I always felt alone with walls up around my emotions because they were safer in confinement. I was only going through the motions of life, not truly enjoying or feeling it, just fumbling along. About every two or three days, those closely guarded emotions rebelled, and I randomly burst into tears, crying just long enough to fix the battlements around my feelings and go on with life.
My paternal grandfather died when I was seven, so I don’t remember him that much. But I do feel a special connection to him. I enjoy many of the same things he did: photography, geology, and the outdoors. When I was little, my favorite color was yellow because that was his favorite color. I love looking at his WWII memorabilia from when he was in the Navy.
One of his sayings was, “home is where you hang your hat.” I don’t think I ever really grasped that idea until I was in college. I had a very stable childhood. My parents built a house when I was four and we’ve lived there ever since. I actually remember going to the build site as a little kid, standing in what would eventually be the kitchen and staring down a massive hole in the floor to what would be the basement. All three of my younger siblings came home from the hospital to that house. I never had to deal with packing up an entire house and moving everything to a new place.
But now, packing up and moving on a biannual basis, I think I understand what my grandfather meant a little bit better. I can make my home wherever life takes me. Sometimes it’s in a college dorm, sometimes it’s my parent’s basement, and sometimes it’s a duffle bag in the back of a car. I can choose to be comfortable there for the time being.
I ended up moving in with the other girl. She was a nursing student who also worked a full time job in a psych ward in Pittsburgh. (Yes. That’s literally what she did.) I would have felt bad making her move. My mom was coming up anyway to take me home for a few days, so she helped me move all my stuff down the hall. Mr. Strutter was very accommodating after I politely chewed him out for putting me in that situation. He even paid for lunch for my mom.
I loved living with my new roommate. We kept each other up way too late, talking about life and school. She was a few years older than me and had more perspective on some of the problems I was having with some friends. She was the best college roommate I’ve ever had.
But she was a senior and only had one class to take in the spring, so she decided to spend most of her time in Pittsburgh and only drive up to the college a few days a week, staying with some of her friends here.
I have a new roommate now. She’s okay. She doesn’t keep me up late at night, although she did wake me up at five o’clock one morning, muttering to herself, “We will kill your friends and your family.” (She’s into theater, so that’s how I explain that one.) We don’t talk because our schedules are so different. She’s a night owl, finishing up her laundry at one in the morning, and I’ve trained myself to be a little bit more of a morning bird.
Through all of these crazy changes (having three different living arrangements in one year has to be some sort of record), I’ve clung to my grandfather’s saying: “Home is where you hang your hat.” I’m moving back home in a couple of weeks where I won’t have to worry about death threats in the middle of the night, and my hat will move back there with me.
While my forever home is in a house that my parents built sixteen years ago on a hill in central Pennsylvania, I have temporary homes that are defined by me at that moment in time.
They are where I hang my hat for that period of time.