By Isabel Vega
“Where are you from?” This is such a straightforward question that is typically answered in a short sentence, but having experienced four major moves and only being 18, I often find myself struggling to find the right response.
I was born in Takoma Park, Maryland, which is in the area where my parents met and started their lives together. Soon after I was born, they built a house in King George, Virginia, where I lived until I was about 4 years old. Once I was ready to start kindergarten, my dad accepted a job in Washington D.C. This meant packing up and moving back to Maryland, –– this time to a small town called Huntingtown.
Huntingtown was where I lived for the longest –– a whole nine years. I have many memories of that place — it is where I started elementary and middle school, where I made my first friend, where I learned how to swim and where I adopted my dog. Growing up, I felt a strong connection to Huntingtown. When my dad accepted yet another job in New York and I learned I’d have to start the eighth grade in New Jersey, I was terrified.
This move affected me much more than the first did. I was older now and had to say goodbye to the friends I had made and everything I had grown so comfortable with.
After moving to Randolph, a small town in North Jersey, I found the adjustment to be less challenging than I thought. I made many friends easily, got involved in extracurriculars and came to love New Jersey. Within a short period of time, I felt welcomed and comfortable.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I knew I wanted to stay in-state. Afterall, New Jersey was my new home. I decided to apply early decision to the College, and when I was committed by the beginning of December 2017, I could not have been happier. Going to school about an hour and a half away from home meant I was close enough to my family to leave campus on the weekends whenever I wanted.
That February, I learned that my parents were looking at houses all the way in Chicago. “Nothing’s set in stone, we’re just looking” is what I was always told. My home was put on the market and sold later that month. We decided to close on our house in July 2018 after my high school graduation.
This was the hardest move of all. Not only was I leaving what I believed to be my true home for the first time, but I was also moving into college the following month. Saying I had a lot to handle was an understatement.
The end of July came and we were all packed up and ready to make the long 10-hour drive to Chicago. In August, I flew back to New Jersey with my mom to get moved into college. Having to fly home and back on breaks, while everyone around me only has a short drive, was incredibly difficult and involved a lot of readjustment.
I spent a lot of time being angry at my parents for moving our family again, especially right before such a huge chapter in my life was beginning. However, I soon realized that being mad wouldn’t make my parents move back to Randolph, help me adjust into my first year at college or change the fact that while my friends can easily drive home and then back to school, I have to get on a plane.
After I was able to change my attitude toward the situation, I made an important discovery. Home is not a specific location on a map. Home is where you feel the most yourself and where the people you love are.
Home is getting disco fries at 3 a.m. with my best friends. Home is playing Mario Kart with my siblings. Home is playing with my little cousins and watching them unwrap their gifts on Christmas. Home is sharing a beautiful meal at my grandmother’s house. Home is not being able to sleep at night because of my dog’s loud snores. Home is a warm hug from my mother at any time of day.
By this definition, I have many homes, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have come to terms with my most recent move and can now say that when I’m asked where I’m from, I am no longer hesitant to answer. I now respond with a simple, “everywhere.”