One of the constant things I've found myself pondering across college life is the question of "home": how we create it, and where we find it. Over the past week, I've been lending my sunburned body to both friends and family to the familiar game of hauling boxes, hurdling truck-beds, and the highs-and-lows of jamming furniture inside unyielding doorframes. I like offering to help; you get to share in some of the satisfaction that arises from structuring a place where people live. Plus, even for the most logistically inclined, changing homes, and packing up the material components of a person's life is a hassle. I've found that I've been paying more attention to these physical artifacts of a person's life. I haven't been focusing on the details of each possession, but in watching my college friends box up all of their things I've found my thoughts coagulating on some basic conclusions.
Even though I've seen Hayman wardrobes packed with the equivalent inventory of a Ross store, we college students really don't have that much stuff. Most of the time, everything we own can fit into the back of a pick-up (with some convincing). It can be kind of humbling to see how much of your life is contained in a bedframe, a dresser, some boxes, and a few posters. Over the last weekend, three of my friends moved into a new duplex and they weren't able to fit the couch from their last house into the new property. That couch had lived in their house from my Sophomore year until now, where it languishes in the backyard of my house seeking new owners to adopt it. Ultimately my friends expressed annoyance; "now we have to get a new couch" etc., but I found myself reading deeper into this wayward couch. How many conversations had this couch been a launching point for? Every weeknight, somebody would have been perched on it with their laptop, finding the nearest roommate to exchange campus vernacular. God knows how many bowls of ramen had been spilled on its cushions, how many times someone lost their phone or keys in its depths, or how often this precious real-estate was contested on a Friday night.
Ancient people used to fashion elaborate totems; talismans to invoke the power of spirits, ancestors, or other mystical elements. In a way, I feel like some of the things we carry, even something as trivial as a ratty old couch, can become one of these talismans. These things are shelters for memory; catalysts for old yarns to tell someone who wasn't there. And although they can be easily replaced (at least in the case of a couch), we give them value and life beyond what their makers imagined. Ultimately, it isn't the fabric of the couch that we find discomfort in discarding, but the aura that it houses.
After four years, I have more-or-less the same amount of stuff coming in, as I will going out. I'll probably bring even less with me as I pursue my interests outside of Caldwell. I have no idea where exactly where I'll be laying my head at night, or the quality of the roof above me. That question is far more daunting than finding "home". "Home" is something you carry, whether it be a quirky piece of art you found in a thrift-store, or a memory to be reawakened by a phone-call. I have plenty of talismans from my time here in Caldwell, but I know that the essence of this place and college are much stronger than any trinket. I'm glad to be carrying some of that.