Home to me has always meant the suburbs of Pittsburgh. The winding roads, the hot sidewalks in summer, and the security that comes with having the majority of your family living within a 5-mile radius – all of these things jump to my mind when I think of home. When I left for college in another state I felt like I had become unanchored, something that my friends who were thrilled to leave their hometowns behind could not understand.
After graduation I did what made sense and moved home. I didn’t have a job yet, nor was I anxious to live anywhere in particular. My friends scattered, but practically none of them moved back home. Many started grad school, one found a great job near her boyfriend, some embarked on their dream careers in new cities. I felt, and still feel, left behind, like my acceptance of moving my stuff back into my childhood room makes me deficient. I know it’s only temporary and that I’ll be well on my way out soon enough, but then the question changes from Should I live at home? to Where should I live?
I am now confronted with choosing my next home. I got to choose my college, but that was never permanent; home was still the place I went to when classes weren’t in session. Now I’m a year out of college and in the midst of finding a new job, one that is not the one I settled for while living at home. I get to decide if I stay in Pittsburgh and look for a job and eventually an apartment here, or if I leave and start over from scratch somewhere else.
On the one hand I can stay where it is familiar. My family has lived in Western Pennsylvania for generations and I feel instinctively that this is where I belong. It’s not like I need my parents to make decisions for me, but I genuinely enjoy my family’s company and their support makes my life easier. Plus, I don’t want to miss any part of my younger siblings growing up – it pained me to see how much Brian, the youngest one, had grown in between winter and summer breaks during college. And then there’s the fact that I love this city, for its culture, friendliness, smaller size, and, of course, relatively low cost of living.
And yet. The time in my life when I was challenged and grew the most was during my semester abroad in Copenhagen. I arrived in a new city in which I knew exactly three people, in a country that was completely foreign to me. I was terrified the first week, convinced I’d made a mistake. And then something changed and I found that the discomfort was kind of exciting. During my trips to other places during that semester I found that I loved the feeling of trying to figure out the foreign public transportation systems, of talking to locals and walking around different neighborhoods.
I haven’t felt that rush of excited uncertainty in a long time. Maybe a move would be good? It’s not permanent; I can come back to my first home if I want to. Perhaps a move would force me to grow again, get more creative and take more risks. I’d make another home, complementary to the original. Maybe leaving now will allow me to come back later a better version of myself, one that has tested the boundaries of home and doesn’t have to wonder where she belongs.