Reconciling Dartmouth With Home

by Janelle A. Ruley | 11/26/97 6:00am

I've got issues with going home for Winter break.

During the past few weeks I have had this pervasive feeling chasing me. Difficult to identify, it was even more tough to escape. I sensed it no matter what I was doing, no matter where I was. It was worse than acute pressure because it was instead constant, oppressive weight. Only when I called TWA to make airplane reservations to go home for Winter break did I finally understand the source of my internal turmoil.

I don't want to go home.

There. I said it. That's it: I do not want to go home. Once I figured that out, some of the burden was lifted, but I was stuck with this horrible knowledge that I was dreading going home.

So my next struggle was to determine why I had these awful vibes. Was it my parents? I've always had a very solid relationship with my parents. We certainly get along; I never rebelled or went through any teen angst. I am even mature enough now to know that I like them and respect them as people. They are wonderful individuals, and I sincerely enjoy their company. But I don't get that "warm and fuzzy" feeling when I think about them and being in their houses (they are divorced) again. It's not that I have an aversion to living with them; I'm simply not especially looking forward to doing so.

Is it my friends? Absolutely not. Some of my best friends are four individuals who graduated from high school with me, and I cannot wait to laugh and play and talk with them again.

Is it my hometown? While not particularly inspiring, the suburb I call home is definitely not egregious to my mental state. And it has become a place I can now go to relax, as I never have academic pressures while I'm there. Dartmouth's term system is wonderful in that I am completely free for breaks.

Grappling with this issue has left me preoccupied for some time. All I knew was that I didn't want to go home. And I didn't necessarily want to stay in Hanover for Winter break either. There was no place I wanted to be. Until it suddenly hit me: the reason I didn't want to go home was that I have felt quite isolated from home this whole term. I feel as though I no longer belong there: home is another planet.

That, I have realized, is the key. I live in two mutually exclusive worlds, and I am the only connection between the two. Sure, my best friends here know my best friend from home, but they are only together for short periods of time. When I go home, I leave Dartmouth behind. It is not a part of the life I have at home, and it is not who I am when I'm home. Somewhere along the plane flight between coasts a transformation occurs, and I become once again the person I used to be. I think the 3,000 physical miles separating my two worlds have become very symbolic ones for me, acting as a cue to become the person who belongs in the world to which I am traveling.

These two worlds throw me off balance. I am having such issues trying to reconcile the two, and how to fit into both simultaneously. I know who I am at home: strong, focused, smart, a "good kid," safe, someone's daughter--I have a reputation. At Dartmouth, though, I am still in the process of defining myself. The people closest to me can see changes through time, but I know that I have the power to shape my persona on campus. I can be who I want to be.

So, when I do go home, I have to remember all of my old, established mannerisms. I have to step into my old shoes and talk the way I used to talk and be who I used to be. Perhaps it will be nice, after all, to be in a place where I'm in control of myself. Please don't get me wrong here--people at home have certainly noted a change, but they don't know the person who writes columns for The Dartmouth, the person who sometimes wants to just break down and cry, the person who experiments, the person who needs other people.

I never felt this way last Fall. I was so eager to go home for the holidays. I could not wait to see my parents and friends and to drive a car and to eat fast food. I wanted and needed a break from Dartmouth. But things were completely different last Fall. I still had very strong connections with home: I talked to my mom every week, I blitzed my high school friends several times a week (if not daily), and I read with interest the articles about my high school football team and other topical issues from home. A year ago I was not yet connected to this campus. More importantly, a year ago I was not yet questioning, evaluating, or realizing myself.

All of this thought and understanding have brought me to the point where I am content to go home. My vehement feeling of not wanting to return has dissipated, and I have recognized that the trip won't be utterly horrible. I will indeed leave much of my Dartmouth persona behind, but I have hopes that perhaps I can bridge a bit of the divide between my two very separate worlds.