“Home”: The Trouble with Transplanting

I lived in West Orange, New Jersey practically my whole life. As much as I appreciated its kitschy, suburban town from a Hollywood movie nature, the family owned ice cream parlor you could walk to after school and the zoo down the street from my house, next to the ice skating rink we all graduated in, I was excited to go to college far away, in a state I knew almost nothing about. (“The Grand Canyon is in Arizona,” That’s all I knew…kind of still is.). It was an adventure that only myself and four other high school kids in my class decided to embark on – leaving their closest friends behind to go off to schools on the other side of the country. I was ready to see a new part of the world and find myself in a new place.

But I never really thought about how difficult being a transplant would be.

transplant (n.) – a person or thing that has been moved to a new place or situation; (v.) – move or transfer (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval

I mean, I knew it’d be hard in some aspects – only coming home about twice a year, making new friends, how do I get my favorite pair of rain boots out there if I can’t fit them in my suitcase…..finding new favorite places to eat… – but I didn’t realize that when you leave one place you’ve been in so long and start to settle into another place, your roots don’t take hold in the ground so easily. The soil you try to grow in, as nice as it is, still feels foreign…but the soil you’re so used to has already started to change without you. I like to call this, the transplant phenomenon.

While in Arizona I’ll see the friends I’ve been in love with for years doing things together that I used to do too, experiencing growing pains, losses and victories, life together, and just being with each other. And my heart aches. I want to be there, I want to be with them. But I can’t. I’m not there. I’m 2,000 miles away. I’ve met amazing people that I’ve come to care about deeply here, but there’s something to be said about finding your footing in life with the people that you used to talk to about how life would be when you were kids. There’s something, unlike anything else, about celebrating achievements with people you’ve been celebrating with over a third of your life and leaning on people who’ve held you up for just as long.

When I go home to New Jersey, and unpack my things, call my friends and hop into their cars (or borrow my mother’s, how high school) it starts to feel like home. The friendly faces I’ve missed for so long are sitting across from me once again. The laughter that erupts out of me fills the suburban air once again and it feels so familiar. But the transplant phenomenon still makes the familiar strange. As much as home feels like home, at the exact same time, it doesn’t. I still feel the distance. I feel my friends going on with their lives without me, not that I expected them to halt for me, but I see it and I feel it. I feel them living life together – what they talk about together, what they’ve done together. And I can’t help but feel like my presence or absence doesn’t really make a difference. That whether I’m home or not, at the table or not, everything will be the same.

But I’ll go back to Arizona and still feel a little out of place. I’ve made friends but not as many as back home. I still don’t always know where to go or who to meet and what to do. And eventually, I end up feeling a little alone and feeling the difference in the soil I’m in. I feel like a transplant with nothing for my roots to latch on to. As much as it’s my home, sometime’s it doesn’t feel that way. It is home, but not always…

The transplant phenomenon is a weird but fascinating fascinating concept – constantly feeling out of place, even when you’re home. But that’s what it all boils down to in the end, isn’t it? A word you don’t really think about when you say it: “home”. The word changes when you uproot yourself and go somewhere else and try to settle in. When you leave your home…but make a new one, where is your home now? What is home? What does home mean?

During my freshman year of college, I refused to say the word “home” whenever I talked about the dorm I lived in, because it didn’t feel like home. I lived there, my stuff was there, all my snacks and dirty laundry, but it wasn’t my home…but sitting in my best friend’s dorm room, watching a movie together or just staring at our laptops together – that felt like home. That single room that wasn’t even mine, with her in it, felt like home.

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My home away from home

As difficult as being a transplant might be, leaving your old friends, missing your old friends, making new ones but still feeling out of place, perhaps the best part about it might be the opportunity it gives you to find out what home means to you. In the same vein as the phrase, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” maybe you can’t really know where or what your home is until you leave it.

Perhaps instead of home being the state I’m from or the state I live in, where I grew up or where I reside, home is actually the people I love and the places I love being in with them. We all know a home doesn’t have to be a house. But maybe a home can be a person, someone who, whenever you’re with them, you’re comfortable, happy. Maybe home is just another word for, “something I need to be happy, something that makes me feel cared for and loved.”

And if that’s the case, maybe the other best thing about being a transplant is that you have the opportunity to find as many homes as you might need.

When we stay in one place, we have only so many homes, all of which give us something we need and love, but chances are those will be the only homes you’ll have for a long time. As difficult as it is to leave the homes we know, going to a new place gives us a chance to find more homes for different parts of us, parts that might not have received as much love in the place we originated from. Or, it gives us a chance to make bigger homes with new people, or let someone into our own homes and let him/her fix up a few things inside that, maybe we never thought could be fixed. We should always be willing to find new homes. Every person you invite into your life has something to give you. And sometimes, leaving what you know gives you a chance to meet people who you may never have met before or would have never spoken to where you were from, and gives you the chance to find new people to call home.

Buildings and spaces crumble. Rooms don’t remember you when you return to them and sometimes you outgrow them and they make you feel out of place. But the people you love and who love you will always remember you and even though things might change when you leave them, when you return to them, as far as they’re concerned: you are home because you’re with them. And even if you leave them, and they don’t see you, there’s always a light on in the room you occupy in their hearts.

And when you think about it that way, maybe being a transplant isn’t so bad – no matter where you go, no matter how far you go, you’re always home somewhere.

Home. I couldn't fit them all, but all are home.

Home. I couldn’t fit them all, but all are home.

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Stop The Ride, Please: The Struggle Between Work and Well-Being

If you ask me, the end of the school year is the worst time of year: papers on papers on tests on tests on study guide on study guide after study guide.

I don’t do well with pressure, but I do even worse with pressure when I can’t let off any steam which is why I don’t do well with pressure…(et cetera, et cetera, as the vicious cycle continues).

The worst part about not being very good with pressure at the end of the school year is the part where something that throws me off emotionally happens between my final on Tuesday and my final on Wednesday morning and I barely have the time to process it, let alone deal with it. Instead, I have to stiffen my upper lip and walk home to do more studying, all while my eyes sting and I’m trying to sniffle quietly, so as not to freak out the guy standing next to me at the crosswalk. But even when I get home and open a book to study, I’m in a place emotionally where I couldn’t concentrate if I wanted to, with my body drooping over my notes and notecards, my stomach grumbling but having no desire to eat or move, all while a part of my brain shouts, “I don’t have time for this, I have a final tomorrow!”

Dealing with depression and depressive tendencies while being a student is and always has been tough, but it gets tougher when you feel like you don’t have time to even think about what’s happening to you or what’s affecting you at the moment. You can’t address how you feel to try to make yourself feel better and you end up sinking further and further into a melancholy place, which is the last you want to be when trying to study or get work done. And it’s something that I so look forward to being able to put behind me, the constant struggle to keep up with both my work and my emotions, as well as the half-hearted attempt to seem like I have everything under control.

Because I don’t, and rarely do I, over circumstances or outcomes of happenstance, or sometimes my reactions to those circumstances. I can’t plan my episodes or try and pencil them into my schedule and I’m tired of having to struggle with the pressure of dealing with school and all its parts and my emotions, my mental health. And work will come when I’m out of school, of course, along with depressive episodes, but in that realm, for the most part, I have a night to unwind, to be comforted, to figure myself and my emotions out. But semesters often feel like a carnival ride I’m strapped to that keeps turning and turning all night and all day, despite my attempts to breathe or at least keep my lunch down.

And I just don’t do well with that. I need time, and as easy as it sounds to say, “Make time,” sometimes, you can’t make something out of nothing – and if I don’t have time, where am I even supposed to find time to make it? (That’s just science people). I’m just ready to stop having to put myself and my emotions behind so many other things. Long after the papers are graded and my diploma has been hanging on the wall, I’ll still be living with my mind and I don’t want to suffer then because I had no room to detoxify my mind now. I want my mind and its health to be a priority and I crave the ability to stop putting it last because I shouldn’t have to and I no longer want to.

Tip Time:

If you find yourself feeling held down by pressure, depression, anxiety or even if you just had a bad day, there’s still things you can do to make yourself feel a little better, even when you’ve got a full to-do list. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to bury your emotions or pretend they aren’t bothering you just because you have work waiting for you. Stand up for yourself and take a small step or two for the better. Try one or a few of these tips to help you feel a little brighter so you can work a little better:

  1. Take 30 minutes to talk to a close friend or relative – On the phone or in person, whatever is easiest. Sometimes when we’re having a rough time, we need to turn to the people we trust the most or the people who we know are always there for us. Call or talk to that person and say, “Hey, I’ve only got about 30 minutes, but I really wanted to talk to you. I’m feeling a little bummed,” and let them help you feel better or at least feel like you can accomplish the tasks you have waiting for you.
  2. Watch a show that makes you laugh – What’s your favorite sitcom or cartoon? Studies have shown that laughter can help make depressive or bummed out feelings dissipate for a bit, releasing some endorphins and helping you smile. After watching an episode of your favorite funny show, you might feel a bit more perked up and feel like you’ve released some stress, putting you in a better place to do some work.
  3. Take a short walk – A lot of people list exercise as something to do while you’re feeling down but sometimes it’s even tough to get up and lace up a pair of running shoes, so instead of, “Go exercise,” I say, take a stroll. Walk to a nearby park or store or just around the block, even. Fresh air and sunshine can make your body feel better as well as your mind. Plus, you have time to think about whatever you want or to not think at all.
  4. Play with your pet – Let’s be honest: sometimes it’s hard to be sad when a cute and furry creature is pawing you or panting happily at you. Playing with your pet for 20-30 minutes is not only a great way to take your mind of things that might be making you feel down but it’s also fun! Not to mention that petting a cat or dog can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and just make you feel loved.

An Open Letter To The Class of Graduating A Year Late

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It’s the last few weeks of April.
Friends are taking graduation photos with peace signs in university gardens.
Your instagram feed is flooded with pictures of caps and gowns and “Omg, last drunken night ordering pizza #sosad #adulthood” posts.

All while you’re casually avoiding registering for the classes you have to sign up and thus sign your soul to your school mascot for ten more months of your miserable college life.

Congratulations, you’re graduating late.

Your friends will be walking down the graduate aisle, receiving their diplomas, throwing their graduation caps. And you’re sitting here, trying to avoid attacking the next person who asks, “Are you excited about graduating in a month?”

All your friends getting ready to move on with their lives and you’re left feeling like a failure, like you aren’t good enough. “Am I defective?” you might say to yourself. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why aren’t I like everyone else?”
“I suck.”

“I’m the worst.”

et cetera, et cetera until you’re barely getting out of bed because, “What’s the point? I’m not doing anything with my life. I might as well just stay here and watch Law and Order re-runs until I get kicked out of college for being too old because I was too stupid to graduate.”

Image(It’s a slippery slope).

But I’m going to tell you something, you might not have thought about amongst your “My life is over” thoughts:

Wait for it…

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Graduating late is okay.
Graduating late is not the end of the world.

It sounds outrageous, an impossible idea, I know. But it’s true. It’s okay to graduate a year late.
Really, late isn’t even the right word. The “Class of 20xx” title is a suggestion, a generalized assumption of how long it would take a general amount people in your age group to get through the rigamarole of classes and papers and homework. It isn’t law. And it is not one size fits all. It doesn’t take into account that people are different. It doesn’t take into account that some people will hit snags or have family crises. It doesn’t take into account that some people deal with situations that make doing work like “everyone else” so much harder – depression, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, anxiety, the list goes on. The schools and administrators who obsess over their students graduating in four years may put it at the utmost importance, but it’s easy for them to forget that the students going to their schools aren’t robots – they’re people. But that idea gets passed down to us, the students. Then we start to believe that we have to graduate in four years, and then we forget that we aren’t robots and we put ourselves down for not doing what we’ve been programmed to do.

But you aren’t a robot. You are an individual. You aren’t everybody else. You are you. And you do what you need to do to get where you need to get to. And your worth has to do with what you accomplish, not how long it takes you to accomplish them. Rome wasn’t built in a day but look at it now. Do you think people visit the Colosseum and say, “Sure it looks nice, but I heard they finished it in 80 AD, but they were supposed to finish it in 75 AD. Amateurs.”

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No one says that. All people say is, “Dang. Look at that Colosseum. Look at how amazing it is. They worked their Roman tails off and made this masterpiece and I’m lucky enough to see it.” And that’s what people will say when you graduate. “You worked so hard. You got this degree. I’m proud of you. You should be proud of you.” That’s all. No one will mention that it took you longer than you expected or than you were told it would take. And if anyone does, punch that person right in the face and rub your diploma in their faces. Because you earned it.

“But what about all my friends? They’re all moving on with their lives and I’m stuck here…”

It’s okay to not be on the same pace as your friends. It might feel a little lonely and it might not feel right, but it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t defective. You’re just on a different path.

You were always meant to take a different path from your friends, weren’t you? You had different majors, you had different interests. You even had different friends. You and your friends, your peers, and other kids on campus, are not the same. You have different goals. You have different strengths, different weaknesses. You are different.

Maybe that’s the scariest thing about graduating “late”. It’s daunting because it forces you to think about the fact that you’re an individual, that sometimes, you’ll stand alone on your path to whatever goals you have set for yourself. And that seems scary. Sometimes it’s scary to be different but sometimes that’s life. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one working towards what you happen to be working towards. And sometimes you might get discouraged. But in those situations, what’s most important isn’t what others are doing: what’s most important is keeping the focus on yourself. If you focus too much on others and their accomplishments, you start to put yourself down or maybe feel like you won’t match their accomplishments and you can’t achieve anything if you don’t believe that you can do anything. But if you focus on yourself and don’t worry about anyone else, and don’t compare yourself to others, you give yourself the opportunity to shine in your way.

Being on your own path isn’t negative. It gives you the chance to do what’s best for you and show the world just what you’re capable of in your own way. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
You fought through your depression and graduated.
You dealt with a family crisis and you graduated.
You changed your major three times until you were happy and you graduated.
You took time to find yourself, came back and you graduated.

Graduating “late” doesn’t say to the world, “I’m a failure”. It says, “I took the path that was best for me and here I am. A graduate, ready for the world.”

The American Dream 2.0 Report on the college dropout crisis, published in 2013, said 46% of American college students don’t graduate college within six years.

But you aren’t a statistic. You aren’t a percentage. You’re you. And you are no less than anyone who graduates before you, or who graduates “on time”.

So, hang in there. One more year. A few more semesters. And you’ll be okay. You’re on the right track – your track. And there’s no time limit for that.

Dealing With Life By Dumping Inches

Every girl has that moment when her life is:

a) Falling apart
b) Way too stressfull
c) Getting out of hand
d) Just ridiculously ridiculous
and you get to that point where randomly during the middle of a conversation about homework with a friend you randomly blurt out, “I’M CUTTING MY HAIR. All of it. Forever.”

Whether you decide to actually do it or not is dependent on the day, how stressed/upset/tired/angry/hungry you are, but for other adult-ish ladies at that mental point in their lives trying to figure out if a stress snip is worth it, I present to you a list of pros for each side of the debate that I made before deciding I needed to get rid of a couple of inches…instead of figuring out my life. And I can tell you, personally, I feel so much less weight on my shoulders. And I mean the things I was worried about are kind of still around, but, at least I look fabulous worrying about them.

Long hair:
•  Cute, messy buns on top of your head
•  Side ponytails (80s style)
•  Hair flipping (especially nervous hair flipping)
•  Looking sexy on top during sexytime (see above)
•  More likely to be an American Apparel model

Short hair:
•  Look cute constantly
•  Itty bitty buns
•  More room for neck kisses
•  Shorter hairs sticking on the shower walls
•  Not looking like 325 other girls on your college campus with wannabe American Apparel hairdos

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Up All Night

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I always seem to find myself awake too late at night: 1 a.m., 2 a.m., wide awake with my cogs turning, churning up thoughts about what I have to do the next day, what I didn’t do today, what I should have done, what I should be doing…(Some people might call that anxiety but I don’t have the money for a therapist so I’ll just call it something else.)

As I lay in bed now I’m starting to think that all this thinking is actually pining – pining for feeling something new before bed.

I can’t wait until I can put my head on a pillow and think, “Tomorrow’s going to be great.” Actually, considering the fact that I’m kind of a pessimist, I guess I can’t wait until I can put my head on a pillow and think, “Tomorrow won’t be awful,” which is almost a step in the direction I’d like to be going in, but I digress. What I’m trying to get at is I can’t wait until I can feel good about my next-days. I’m tired of dreading pulling myself out of bed to trudge to classes I don’t want to be in then trudge back to my apartment to stare at different textbooks for hours at a time while opening and closing Facebook to see that nothing’s changed since the last time I looked and I should probably be getting more work done.

I guess I’m just so ready to be doing the things I want to do. People tell you that being a college student is you paving your path to the rest of your life. But honestly, it feels like being a college student is you pining for the rest of your life. And not even the work/job/occupation part. Just, literally. Life.

My roommate and I often gripe that we can’t wait to be done with school because our time will finally be ours. OURS. What a concept. That we could go to work for 8 or so hours then come home and read a book, or go for a run, or sit in a goddamn chair for four hours, who cares. It’s OUR time. Everyone says you have so much freedom in college, so much time, but when you think about it: not really. I may have put my own schedule together but someone else told me which pieces were available for me to move around. And those pieces all need attention, hours of attention. My classes are like my children – they all want this and that and to do these things and those things and I’m laying in bed with the lights off, nursing a headache thinking, “Mommy needs, like, five minutes…” By the time I give them all the attention they feed off of, I’m so tired I couldn’t lift the TV remote if I wanted to. And you can’t get rid of them, due to a few legal reasons, not to mention the idea of your mother asking, “I haven’t seen any sign of your kids lately,” while you hum loudly to yourself and pretend you can’t hear her.

All I’m saying is I’m ready for Mommy time.
Okay, this analogy has gotten strange. Me time. Me. I’m ready to stop pining for better tomorrows and start having them because they’re filled with things I can’t wait to do. And don’t think me naive: I know I’ll still have to do a few things I’m not thrilled about, hell, we all do. But the opportunity for more is there. And I’m ready to go to bed and be excited about that opportunity: whether I’ve taken advantage of it or I’ve found another that I’ll be able to. The door is open. And I’m ready to stop having my thoughts keep me up until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. because I’d rather be up late to postpone my monotonous tomorrow full of boring lectures and reading dry texts. I just want to do things for me that make me happy, give me new experiences and I want to have time for those things without feeling guilty, neglectful, or regretful about doing them. I want to feel good about the day to come, finally and put my head on the pillow at night and say, “I did this today and that was good and tomorrow will be good too because I’ve got the chance to make it good.” Then I’ll probably think, “That isn’t exactly poetic, but it’s comforting,” then close my eyes, settle in and snooze.

Indecisions, indecisions

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When I was in middle school, I could never quite pick a screenname for my AIM account. There were too many options: “Should I make a screenname about my tomboyishness? Tomboygrrl18? Or a screenname about the music I like: greendaydarling92? Wait! People should probably know that it’s me their talking to, so, maybe something more obvious? Frenchiegurl98? There were so many aspects of myself I wanted to express and I just couldn’t pick which one. My solution, much to the confusion and undoubtful annoyance of my friends, was to make each account and have three screennames. Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

I feel like college is difficult for me because I have so many interests and care about so many different things. I want to be creative and think of funny slogans for commercials, but I also want to work with dogs, but I also want to help troubled kids, but I also want to plan parties for fancy businessmen, but I also want to…(see where I’m going here?) 

Everyone seems to have a focus. Sure they have interests outside that focus, but they’re attention is pinpointed on that one thing that they want to do. But me? I’m all over the place. And it puts me in a position where I’m constantly dissatisfied because what I want is constantly changing. The middle schooler in me just can’t seem to settle on a thing. 

Maybe that’s why I’m so ready to be done with college. I’m ready to open the doors and look around and window shop. Apply here, apply there, get this job, volunteer here. I’m ready to stop being bored and start finding the things that will satisfy my need to be all over the place and give myself to multiple places and causes that will make me happy. And maybe being all over the place won’t be so bad after all.