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    When Home Isn't Home Anymore

    I felt guilty for wanting to be back at college. I loved my family—so why wasn't I happy to see them?

    Kacy Carraway

    My family was living in South Carolina when I made the decision to go to Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. It was only six hours from home—an easy weekend trip. Then my dad heard about a job in Houston. A week after my family took me to college for my first semester, they moved to Texas.

    No problem. College was a blast. I was making friends, filling up my time with plays, groups, late-night movies and, oh yeah, classes. Then, a few weeks before Christmas, during one of my usual Sunday night phone calls to my family, it happened. "When you come home," Mom said, "we'll have to take you out to Galveston." Wait a minute, I thought. I am home. College was where my friends were. I felt settled and comfortable. My family's home might be Texas, but mine was Tennessee.

    A few weeks later, I found myself on a plane headed to a strange city, strange people and a strange house my family called "home." When I got off the plane, my parents and my 6-foot tall "little" brother met me at the gate. "We're so happy to have you home," Dad said as he handed me a beautiful, red rose. I didn't remember him ever giving me flowers before. I started crying right there in the middle of the airport. I didn't want to be there, so far away from my new home, and I felt guilty for thinking that. Didn't I love my family? I wondered. Shouldn't I be happy to see them?

    Deep down, I knew I was happy to see them. But more had changed since they dropped me off at school than my address. At college, I'd become more independent and was used to making my own decisions. Their decision to move to Texas was out of my hands, and that made me uncomfortable.

    I was also used to seeing my college friends every day. I'd come to rely on them, and they supported me like a family. Because of them, my transition into college was relatively easy. I never guessed my transition back "home" would be so much harder.

    My family's move to Texas was only part of the problem. I'm sure that even if I'd been going to South Carolina, things would have been a little strange. My college friends who returned to their hometowns found things weren't how they'd always been. Some of their high school friends, chose to go to local schools, to work or get married. Friends who once shared everything from study hall to play practice suddenly had nothing in common.

    At "home" in Houston, I just moped around all Christmas break, feeling sorry for myself. There was nothing familiar to hold on to. I met one new person after another and saw lots of new places. But I wasn't interested in any of it—I wanted to be back in Tennessee, or at least South Carolina, where I recognized people and knew my way around. I felt sad and out of place.

    I knew my parents were concerned about me and a little hurt that I wouldn't talk to them about my feelings, but I didn't want them to think I was a traitor to the family. That's kind of how I felt, though. So many questions kept running through my brain, like, "Where do I belong? Will this house ever feel like home?"

    After what seemed like a year, it was time to go back to school. My family drove me to the airport, where I felt even guiltier because I was so happy to be leaving. How could I be such an ungrateful daughter? I asked myself. What's wrong with me?

    By my junior year, I'd figured out there was nothing wrong with me. It helped when a friend told me, "You know, sometimes the thought of going home is better than the reality." I walked away from that conversation feeling pretty normal and knowing that other people had to adjust to major changes, too.

    Change isn't always a bad thing, though. Without it, I might get comfortable where I am and forget life has such infinite possibility. And I'd never learn what good things new places have to offer.

    I don't mind going home to Texas anymore. I've made friends in Houston, and I'm active in a church there. I enjoy finding new favorite restaurants and exploring back roads. It's still hard to answer the question, "Where are you from?" but only because it takes so much explanation.

    I like being a part of so many different places, and I like telling people about my many "homes." Those places are part of who I am. I know God has a purpose for my experiences, and I know he'll always find me—wherever I am.

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