I was so excited to start college. I’ve always been an independent person, and the idea of leaving behind Castro Valley and all the memories it held was something that excited me. I never looked back.
My first semester was wonderful. I learned so much about myself. I had meaningful experiences that taught me more about who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be remembered. The small town of Rexburg, Idaho, with all its dysfunctional inhabitants, became my new home. I fell in love with the mountains, the
I came home that summer and I felt lost. I remember not feeling comfortable in my bed, and wandering out to the couch in the middle of the night. My mom heard my crying and came to get me. My excuse was that I couldn’t sleep, but it was much more than that. The roof that I slept under for eighteen years no longer felt like my roof. The sheets on my bed weren’t my sheets. The overflowing suitcases on the floor were just a subtle reminder that I no longer belonged here.
I followed my mom into her bedroom and curled up next to her on the bed. We didn’t speak, but sleep eventually overcame me.
This happened again the week before I left on my mission. I came in to her room, resting my head on the pillow next to hers. No words were shared, but we both cried. We cried because what was coming was unknown. I was leaving behind two homes. Two families. My heart was now in two places.
Eighteen glorious months passed, much more quickly than I would have liked. I lost myself in the work. But by losing myself, I also found myself. I found parts of me that I never knew existed. I also found another new home, amongst the Joshua trees and dust of the Mojave Desert.
Home is now three different places. When I think of my home, I think of the small blue house on Gem Avenue, with the Mulberry tree out front. I think of BYU Idaho’s campus, and all I’ve learned there. And, I think of the people of Rancho Cucamonga.
You see, for me, the word home no longer has a strict definition. It isn’t confined to the 4 walls and shingled roof of a dwelling place. It isn’t required to have a kitchen, a TV, or a dining room table. The word home means so much more. It is a conglomeration of places, people, and experiences. Its the time I spent walking roads in Apple Valley. Its the classrooms I spent so much time in. Its the trampoline in my backyard that my sisters and I spent hours playing on. Home is more than just my parents and siblings. Its the Gallos. The Cancholas. The Hobbs. Its Berkeley, and Alexa, and Cayzia, and McKenzie. Its Callie and Jessica and Jake and Ryan. Its Ben and Joel and Jordyn and Dallin.
When we are children we learn slowly. We touch a hot stove, and we learn that heat can hurt us. We make friends; some stay, some leave. Growing up we only have a small pool of experiences on which to base our thoughts and feelings. But as we mature, and move away, and find ourselves, the pool of experiences grows and gains meaning.
I’ve learned to embrace change. It doesn’t always come easily. It can be painful. I happens too quickly at times. But when we focus more on the experiences, and then the meaning that those give to our lives, we can expand life’s vocabulary.
Home isn’t just the little blue house on Gem Avenue.
Its what I choose to make it.