Thoughts on Home: Interviews with Our Editors

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Photo/Essay/Interview by Hannah Gottlieb-Graham.

Why does it feel so odd to wake up in a bed that used to be mine, covered in fingerprints of people who once graced it, now donned in a new set of sheets that my mother bought, folded neatly for my arrival? To wake up alone, in a house filled with loving family members, a town filled with supportive friends, but nevertheless alone. To search for my personality in an empty bookshelf, an armoire solely housing high school prom dresses. My room is a previous iteration of myself: I am a girl named Hannah who once wrote journal entries about the boys she kissed, now writes poetry about the smells of New York. Where is home? Is it anywhere, can it be everywhere? Is it a room or a person or an image or a sensation?

Some days I do feel at home in this old home. When my mother bakes pumpkin bread, whispers words in Portuguese, I feel at home. When my father releases a big belly laugh, puts on an apron and sweats in the kitchen, I feel at home. When I pour a glass of wine, sit by the fireplace and watch my parents wink at each other, I feel at home. But often, I feel lonely in this expansive, deeply dull Midwest place. I remember the comfort that I once felt, laying in a certain someone’s arms, in a certain someone’s bed, now a sort of anti-home. I  creep onto my roof to watch the stars dart around the air, so I can feel small again, the version of myself who walks around Manhattan with no agenda. I sleep for 12 hours, and awaken to realize that I am not in New York, I am not a little star, I am a human with limbs and skin and breath, and somehow, this is never comforting.

I crave said anonymity, but instead receive a series of intrusive questions about my habits, my future, my education. I am exhausted. Who are my people, and where are they? What are my friends from school doing, back in their own empty rooms, answering their own sets of empty questions? When I leave this old home, hop on a massive, winged machine to take me to my new home, what will matter? Who will call me when I land? What will I do when I arrive? How will I treat the people who I have missed? Will I forget their intricacies, voices, movements, little ticks?

Why does it feel so odd to wake up in a bed that is owned by my college, covered in only my fingerprints, awaiting my flesh and my thoughts? To romanticize a place, to imagine complete happiness, to be disappointed by my surroundings and yet overwhelmed by its beauty? Lately, home is the dance studio that I dreamed of in December, the roommate whose voice always soothes me, the sun that makes shapes on my wall. Tomorrow home might be a skyscraper, or a friend’s laugh, or a teary voicemail from my mother. I will always remember my sixth birthday, when I sat on my grandfather’s lap and he told me that I feel too deeply, love too many people, crave too much beauty. I asked him how I could fix myself, and he replied, “No, it’s a compliment.”

I do not know if I will ever find my perfect place, or my perfect people, or understand the word “home.” And my grandfather is right: I probably do feel, love, and crave too much. But maybe this vulnerability allows me to have multiple homes. Maybe home is a mentality. Maybe home is myself.

Julia Reichard:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born in San Francisco CA. I was raised largely in SF save for two years in Houston when i was in 3rd and 4th grade.

Psh, uh….8 houses?

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

Certainly San Francisco. Probably by the ocean. Actually the mental image that I suppose I have most often is a view of the bay, maybe the view from Crissy Field. It smells like salt and sand. San Francisco air also has a particular smell, I can’t totally describe it but it smells sort of fresh and wet. I guess like fog. My house in San Francisco is also part of what I think about. I love the walk up to my house, the view is lovely and the road is small and hilly. The light in my house. The city is complicated and difficult. Sometimes I hate it, days when it is raining or when I see horrible things happen to homeless folks. When I see the juvenile detention center across from the police station downtown. Sometimes I imagine what the city used to look like before it was paved and plastic. Plants and trees and succulents. And yet at the same time, I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy it. I have had countless adventures in San Francisco. Independent bookstores and queer events and burlesque. Vegan food and vegan ice cream and more restaurants than residents. Punk houses and all of Oakland just across the bay. And the city is full of people I’d love to meet. I guess I didn’t realize until I got to NY how distinct the way people dress and present themselves is in SF. Well, the people that aren’t boring tech execs. But it is interesting. People are less trendy and less polished. I miss being able to leave the city in 15 minutes and see trees and fields and cliffs.

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

Contented, I suppose. Excited and free to do as I please. It reminds me of that feeling when you climb up a tall hill, and take a deep breath as you get to the top and look out over the view.

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

No not really, it is most certainly my home still. I suppose the only thing that is different is that fewer of my friends are there, more people are all over the country, but I see folks enough and have made new lovely friends. And the Bay Area is always full of new people to meet and connect with.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

No.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

I suppose Andrews Court during the fall. But that’s a stretch.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

Close female friends. My partner. Probably people that I can be myself with, that I can be angry and queer with and that that’s ok, but also goofy and silly.

Chris Kelly:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born in Norfolk, VA, but I was raised in Colorado Springs, CO. I’ve lived in upwards of eight physical homes, I think, but it could be more than that. I also hitchhike so sometimes outside feels homey.

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

Conceptualizing the idea of “home” is tough. I’ve sort of lived on my own for a good amount of time now and haven’t felt really at home anywhere. That’s mostly because home seems like a stable concept, and I’ve been in transition for what seems like forever. I’m always in transit, I guess. So home for me is just a feeling of being comfortable where I am, like I’m where I’m supposed to be, but I don’t always feel that way.

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

I guess I kinda answered questions 2 and 3 all in one go. But yeah home is nowhere. I have a friend named Jonas who writes the phrase “Home Sweet Nowhere” in a lot of his art. That’s pretty true.

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

I don’t feel at home when I go back to my parents’ house over break. It’s been too long since I’ve actually lived there.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

I sometimes feel at home in my room. Not always. New York City itself definitely leaves me feeling displaced more than anything.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

That being said, my room is definitely where I’m most comfortable because I can seclude myself there and watch anime and drink Capri-Sun. Sometimes I just watch infinite fractal videos on silent and listen to S-Club 7.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

Whoever I’m feeling close to elicits a feeling of comfort similar to what I think of as “home.” I think people in general make a home much more than walls. Here’s a song about people.

Audrey Irving:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born in the Group Health Capitol Hill Campus North Building birthing center in Seattle, Washington. Capitol Hill is a trendy, ever-unaffordable, historic LGBT enclave adjacent to downtown. I grew up in a nearby, more north neighborhood called Bryant, near the University of Washington. I lived in that house for the first 18 years of my life. I’ve also spent Christmases and some summers living with my mother in the small town of Columbus, WI, which is close to Madison, for the last 15 years.

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

I think of books, the Le Creuset cookware my parents have always had, and the bougie grocery chain Metropolitan Market two blocks from my parents’ house in Seattle. Drizzly rain and overcast weather are always home-y to me being from the Pacific Northwest. American Craftsman architecture evokes home to me, as do grapefruit juice, kiwifruit, English muffins and homemade enchiladas.

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

Comfort, belonging, stability, and familiarity. Feeling a sense of history in a place, and a constant returning to that history. More specifically, being able to drink cocktails and wear lounge-y clothes and waste hours looking at blogs and news sites (mostly skincare blogs).

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

No, I don’t anymore. It’s always more and more feeling like “my parents’ house” when I’m back. I think this is probably how it is for many people, and it’s likely healthy; my first year I was so happy to be back, but each semester there are a few steps removed, a bit more dissonance felt. Now I want to repaint the house and get rid of all kinds of clutter my dad never throws away. I don’t think I’d really mind much if they repurposed my bedroom for something else. Seattle will always be where I grew up and my “real” home in that sense, but it’s kind of too familiar and often feels small despite it being a bigger city.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

I do feel at home at Sarah Lawrence, but I don’t live here anymore. I moved off campus over the summer to an apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and feel very much at home there. I started commuting to Williamsburg regularly my sophomore year, and as much as living in the city can be isolating and exhausting at times, it is very much where I want to be and I’m used to the time it takes now coming back and forth. I do know that when I graduate, the school will remain very dear to me forever.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

I’ve napped in the Slonim Living Room a number of times. Common Ground has been a home for me, but it’s also a difficult space to navigate in social and psychological ways. Heimbold is home-y to me; I know people complain that its (literally) cold as well as unwelcoming, but it’s been a great place for me and feels like the heart of my experience here. All of Sarah Lawrence is kind of cozy with its quaint residential Tudor design and mismatched add-ins through the years. Except for Hill House, which despite being my home for my first year here is really a home to no one and should honestly be burned to the ground.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

Home is ultimately wherever I make it and whatever space I can carve out for myself, literally and otherwise. But I’m not a believer in “nomadology” beyond necessity; I do need a physical home base of relative reliability. I like nesting and having certain useful, important or beloved material belongings. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to gain a sense of home in Berlin last summer, which really helped ground me through the intensive study abroad program I did there. Some places are easier to make camp than others. I feel a deep sense of comfort and belonging with my girlfriend, and also with my close friends. There is a sense of community and home I feel in spaces with other women, with other queer people, or with other Latinas and/or people of color, all in line with a particular idea of home being tied to interpolated identity. I feel very at home working in the arts and visiting the many places a person can view or experience art in the world.

Hortense Lingjaerde:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland and I live between four physical houses/apartments: a family house in the south of the Oslo fjord in Norway, an apartment in Geneva, a family house on my mother’s side in the village of Giez in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland, and my chalet in the canton of Valais in the Swiss Alps, where I go as often as I can during weekends and hollidays.

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

For me home is wherever my family is. As my family is all over the world right now, my “home” properly speaking is in all thoses places: Switzerland, Norway, England, and the United States (maybe Japan soon, with the prospect of my older brother moving to this far away land that I would love to visit one day).

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

To feel at home is for me to see familiar faces as well as places where I grew up. But I consider the whole of our planet Earth as everyone’s home and we ought to preserve it for future generations to come. I feel at home wherever there is nature and scents that I recognize, where I can see the stars, breathe fresh air and eat healthy, organic food from local markets. I feel at home wherever I meet people who are open minded and respectful toward others. I feel at home where I’m invited and seen for who I am and not judged based on societal constructs.

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

Yes and no, because Switzerland is a world away from the United States, and when I finally get accustomed to a way of leaving I have to reconsider myself when I travel back. I now see things that I never payed attention to growing up in Geneva. A little out of translation every time, I see that a lot of things have changed within the four years that I’ve been away from home, and I have no control over these things. I had to learn to accept that friendship and distance doesn’t always work hand in hand, and that I have to build myself wherever I am in the now. I am an itinerant soul, always on the road, and it is difficult for me to imagine taking roots anywhere. Maybe when I go back to Geneva, the feeling of nostalgia comes from me knowing that this is the land of my ancesters, the land of my family and the land where I grew up. But it might never be the land where I will grow old. Maybe I will never settle down anywhere, or maybe I will settle somewhere in the UK, Japan, or some far away country where I will get to make films as well as practice some journalism.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

There are days where I tell myself that I do, but it has been difficult to find my place in the Sarah Lawrence community for some time (I am a junior now). This might be because living in New York is so similar to where I grew up, in term of ecclectism, but is also so different. It was difficult for me to get acclimated to the american way of life and I didn’t alway understand what appeared to me as unbreakable codes of conduct and relationships. I sometimes feel lost or as alienated, because I am confronted by other students who didn’t grow up with my values, education and traditions, but this experience is also enriching. Diversity is important to me and I’m always eager to hear about the social or individual habits that people have. My english has slowly improved and I’ve been able to adapt to this new environment.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

My room, which is a single, definitely feels like a safe place to me. I also appreciate the new library cafe and the editing room, which is a quiet place where I spend hours editing, mostly at night, sometimes until four in the morning.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

Yes, I feel at home when I’m with my close friends and my family, who I can laugh with and say anything to. I feel at home when I can be myself without the fear of judgment. This social anxiety results from having been misjudged and bullied in primary and middle school. I feel at home with people who aren’t afraid to give without waiting for anyting in return: generous people who don’t judge you based on where you’re from or what your parents do, but for how willing you are to give a hand to the ones who need your help. I feel at home with people who have the ability to listen before they speak.

Sarah Simon:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and lived there until I was 11. Then, I moved to Los Angeles and haven’t moved since, so I have had two physical homes.

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

When I think of the word “home” I definitely picture my family. My two brothers live in California also and my whole family tries to get together once every couple of weeks to have dinner or something, so I imagine that.

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

To feel “at home” means feeling safe and able to be as grumpy or happy or whatever as I’m feeling. It’s like a network of support no matter what is going on, kind of.

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

No comment.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

I definitely feel at home in my room at school. I’m really into decorating so it’s just a very cozy, homey space but also I think it’s the people I spend time with here. I have some really close relationships and they also feel like home to me. So having them associated with this space really helps.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific space that feels safe and homey to me, other than my room, of course. But as I said, there are people on this campus who are home for me and who give me a sense of safety and unconditional love and support and everything.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

See questions 4/5.

Kate Hamrick:

1- Where were you born? Where were you raised? How many physical homes have you lived in?

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. I’ve lived in a townhouse in Atlanta until I was six, and I lived in my current Princeton home for the past 14 years.

2- When you think of the word “home” do you imagine a physical house or space, or a country, or a person, or a smell, or anything else?

I think of pulling up into my driveway in my Princeton house, my cats rolling on their backs at my feet, my dog, Ollie, banging on the front door, my dad standing behind him, my mom running down the stairs from her office. This image of coming home has to do with the physical space, but also the environment that my parents have created for me. My mother and father are my home. Since attending sleep away camp, boarding school, and now college, going back home is always a journey. There is a ton of anticipation. I always hug my parents tightly, breathing them in to keep some of home with me.

3- What does it mean for you to feel “at home”? 

I think I answered that above; home is definitely my parents. However, I tend to feel at home easily. All I have to do is make myself a comfortable physical space, fill it with a few things that I love, like photos, books, etc, and be with people who I love.

4- Do you feel “at home” when you return to your old home during college breaks? Have your feelings about this home changed as you’ve changed?

I totally feel at home during college breaks. My feelings of home haven’t changed at all, but that’s probably because I’ve spent so much time away from it: I went to sleep away camp in North Carolina every summer for nine years and felt at home there. I went to boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island and felt at home there, as well. I feel at home in my college dorm room. Home can be all of these places, but my parents have always remained constants.

5- Do you feel “at home” in your room at Sarah Lawrence? Do you feel “at home” in New York?

I feel very at home in my room at Sarah Lawrence, because I have created a space where I feel inspired. It’s like a bird making a nest, filling it with important pieces and things that you love.

6- Is there a specific space on campus that makes you feel particularly comfortable, or safe? What about this space is special or homey to you? 

The only place that makes me feel at home here is my room.

7- Do you feel “at home” with specific people back home, or on campus, or anywhere else? What about your relationship with them makes you feel “at home”?

I feel at home with my closest friends here. It is nearly impossible for me to not feel at home when I’m surrounded by people who I love.

Hannah Gottlieb-Graham is a sophomore studying dance, art history and women's studies. In her spare time she enjoys writing articles for Surface Magazine and College Fashion, cooking vegetarian cuisine, gallery hopping, shooting film and making her own perfume. Her weaknesses are Wes Anderson and good champagne. Insta: @sweetsweetnoir

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