This past semester, my senior fall felt simultaneously like one of my longest and shortest semesters at Hopkins. I took more academic credits than I ever had during my time as an undergraduate, yet my workload felt somewhat lighter than in previous semesters.
Still, during finals, I was desperately anticipating winter break, a chance to go home and relax, breathe and recuperate from the busy lifestyle I have grown so accustomed to as a Hopkins student. However, when I finally arrived at the childhood home I know so well, where my dad and my childhood pets still reside (at least those still living), things felt less than homey.
To be fair, it’s been multiple years since I or any of my siblings have actually lived at home, which is apparent if you look in our closets or at the stacks of boxes my dad has accrued over the past two years.
Each of our closets is host to old dresses from high school dances, jackets and hoodies from past sports teams we were a part of and can’t seem to let go of and random bits and pieces from ancient furniture, locked away for years.
Even beyond my childhood home, the streets of the neighborhoods I grew up in felt new and unfamiliar. The avenue that my friends and I would walk to after middle school has very few of the landmark stores we would frequent every Friday. Instead, there are new, fancier stores and bigger parking lots to meet the ever-growing demand.
The mall we used to go to has been upgraded and expanded numerous times in the past four years, now boasting a movie theater and cafeteria filled with dazzling, new food stalls that feel so ingrained in the foundation of the mall. Now, I can’t quite remember what used to be in their place.
With every passing day I spend living in a new city and experiencing new things, the physical and psychological distance between myself and home feels greater, reaffirmed by the lengthy plane rides every winter break and the dwindling sense of home I feel when I visit.
I was lucky enough to have two of my best friends and roommates visit my hometown during a summer break one year. The visit had a uniquely interesting dynamic; I was reminiscing about memories and past experiences I grew up with in my hometown while introducing these parts of me to people who are actively and majorly involved in my present life. I was forced to reconcile the idea of myself that lived the memories I was presenting to my friends with the idea of myself that has lived in Baltimore for four years.
In the past four years that I’ve spent living in a different city with only brief visits to home, I’ve fallen in love with the new city around me and the places and neighborhoods I’ve gotten to experience. I could go on and on about the struggles of branching out beyond the Hopkins bubble, a concept every long-ish time Hopkins student is familiar with, but I’ve managed to hit the must-see places in Baltimore enough to get my bearings.
My friends and I are frequent fans in the crowd at Camden Yards, always rooting for the Baltimore Orioles no matter how many times they lose. After a quick ride on the purple line, there's nothing better than an overpriced hotdog and seltzer to warm your Friday nights. The bars and clubs in Inner Harbor are always packed and welcoming if you catch them on a night when they aren’t playing the worst remixes of old songs that nobody actually likes.
Remington and Hampden boast a great array of restaurants, cafes, vintage shops and artistic vendors that make them exciting destinations for a chill night out with friends during the week. The National Aquarium in Inner Harbor is always a fun experience, although it’s definitely one of the more expensive attractions I’ve gone to.
My roommates and I went through a salsa-dancing stint at the sandlot in Inner Harbor, definitely one of the best Monday-night traditions we’ve been able to sustain. I love Baltimore; the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had since living here are things I will hold dear for years to come, and yet it still isn’t the place that pops into my head when I think of home.
When I think of home, it is where I grew up and spent the formative first years of my life, and I reminisce fondly about (most) memories. Perhaps the reason it feels distantly like home is because my only connection to that space now is through my memories; they exist in the past. My present and future lack that same connection to the place I grew up. Wherever my future takes me, I will always have the memories and defining experiences from home that make me who I am.
Jackie Rittenhouse is a senior from San Mateo, Calif. majoring in Psychology and Anthropology. Her column, Reminiscing and Revelations, explores the experiences that have shaped the person she is today.