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Home is the Environment

Jenna Myers's picture


Home is the Environment


To me, home is a place where I feel safe and I am in a loving and warm environment. When I was younger I only saw myself as having one home. However, over the years I have realized that I can have multiple homes. Home is not just a building where I live in. Home to me can consist of anything: location, people, and the environment. In my mind I have multiple homes: Chicago, Wisconsin, Bryn Mawr, and New Zealand. Besides locality, the people around me make me feel at home. Biologically, my family consists of my mom, dad, sister, two uncles, two aunts, and two cousins. My family has always seemed small, however I realized that there are more people in my life who I consider my family.

I have lived in Chicago my entire life. We lived in our first house until I was about 4 years old and then we moved to my current house. Whenever I enter my house I feel a warming sensation; hearing the squeaky sound the door makes as I open it and hearing loud barking coming from the top of the stairs. As soon as you get to the top of the stairs you have dogs jumping all over you and licking your face as if you’ve been gone for years when you just went down to get the mail. My dogs are similar to me in the sense that we love being outdoors but we also need to feel safe and comfortable at home. I hope that these shaggy looking dogs feel the way I feel about the house and about the neighborhood we live in. My house is in a quaint neighborhood called Lincoln Park. It’s just a 5-10 minute drive to get to downtown Chicago yet the environment doesn’t feel like a city. To me my house and my neighborhood is similar to a suburban environment. Growing up my family got to know the other neighbors on the block as well as other neighbors around the corner. In the summer you see children riding their bikes and dogs everywhere. There is a block party over the summer where everyone comes out of their homes and enjoys each other’s company. The firemen always come with their truck and let the younger children climb it. Later on a band plays that one of the neighbors is in and everyone gathers around to listen and dance to the music. It’s one of my favorite events of the summer and an event where I feel at home. This past block party I ended up sitting on the steps of one of my terminally ill neighbors houses who I have always been fond of. Growing up he was like the crazy uncle in my family. He always knew how to make me laugh. We just sat on the steps and watched as this block party went on. When I was getting ready to leave the steps and return to my house he ran inside and brought out a tray of cookies. He insisted I take one so I did and as I was leaving he told me that I was a sweet good girl. Sadly a few weeks later he passed away. There are so many people around who love me and who I think of as family because I’ve grown up with them. Even when there is a death in the neighborhood, it feels as if there was a death in the family which is exactly what happened to me this summer. Even though I had this one home I still always yearned for another home that was in the middle of the woods where I could explore and be around nature and the environment more.

Around the time when I was 8 years old my family bought a summer home up in Delavan, Wisconsin. We had a little house on the lake where we had a forest to our left and blackberry bushes to our right. Whenever we would go up to our house my sister and I would pick the blackberries and make pie or we would go tubing on the lake where the seaweed was as tall as the water level. During the week I would go to a camp nearby where I learned how to sail, went hiking, learned how to swim, and other camp activities. Occasionally we would explore the woods near us, though because I was at a young age my mother didn’t want me staying for too long or going to deep into the woods. Regardless of the restrictions I was given I still had the sense of being at home with nature. I only wish I could have explored more. Unfortunately we sold the house after 6 years of owning it and I lost the sense of being around nature and feeling at home with nature.

When it was time for me to start looking at colleges I had no idea what I was looking for. My only requirement was that I ended up at a small liberal arts school. I visited many colleges and universities, but it wasn’t until I looked at Bryn Mawr did I realize what I actually wanted. On the tour I talked with the head traditions representative at the time while my parents talked to two tour guides in training. As the tour went on I noticed the people walking around, the buildings, the trees, and the way the sunlight was hitting everything. At that point something clicked and I realized that this place made me feel at home. I felt this sense of safety and warmth. Since being at Bryn Mawr I still have a sense of being at home. Walking into the dorms you feel the warm air and a sense of community. People’s doors and bulletin boards are filled with photos and other decorations. The hallways are decorated with different themes that make the hallway fun and inviting to anyone who walks them. The campus itself is very inviting. When you reach Pem Arch or Rock Arch its as if you are about to enter into this giant house filled with different buildings and favorite spots such as the cloisters or the sunken garden. In the spring you can walk down the pathway and see cherry blossoms all over which always gave me the feeling of being at home. Whether there’s snow on the ground or it’s a warm sunny day there is always a sense of home, warmth, and safety to me. My friends also give me a sense of being at home. They are all family to me and provide me with a safe and warm environment. Being in a location where I go to school seems to be like another home to me, which is where my third home comes into play.

In the spring of 2013 I went abroad to New Zealand. After taking numerous geology courses at Bryn Mawr I knew I wanted to go to a school that allowed me to continue taking geology courses and be able to go on trips for them. At first I thought going to New Zealand would seem more like a vacation from my homes rather than being a home away from my other homes. However, I realized that New Zealand was going to be a third home to me. I immediately felt comfortable and safe when I landed. On the drive from the airport to my flat I saw open fields, hillsides, and cows and sheep roaming the land. My flat was another building that I could call my home. It was always freezing but my flatmates became my family members and despite the cold they made the flat a warm and safe environment. We fought as if we were family members, we made decisions as a family, we grocery shopped together, and we cooked together. New Zealand became that other home I always wanted. I was able to be surrounded by nature and explore it everyday. Even though the school was located in a small city, which is something I didn’t necessarily want I learned that there was so many areas around the city where I could explore and be around nature. Groups of us would go explore mountains and hike different trails around the area as well as take longer trips to go hiking and camping. We didn’t care if we drove 2 hours or 11 hours. All we wanted to do was explore. Even though we traveled all the time, every destination felt like home to me. Even complete strangers made me think of them as family because everyone was so inviting and loving. New Zealand made me realize that you can have all of these homes that stretch across the entire world, but more importantly it made me realize that I should think of every location and environment as my home.

When I was younger I thought of my home in Chicago as my only home and I only had a certain number of family members. As I grew older I expanded my homes and my family. Coming to Bryn Mawr I originally thought of it as an extension of my home and the friends are another extensions of my family. In New Zealand I continued to think that it was another extension of my home and the friends were another extension of my family. But closer to the end of my stay in New Zealand I had a new way of looking at this idea of home. Home now encompasses everything. Home to me is the environment I am in. Whether I am staying in a hostel in the northern island of New Zealand or camping in the middle of the woods outside of Philadelphia or back in Chicago in my childhood house I will feel a sense of being at home in this loving and safe environment. The people that I encounter along the way may start out as strangers but hopefully along the way they will turn into friends, which will then turn into family. The people and the environment I am in will make me feel at home.



Anne Dalke's picture

on not staying too long in the woods...

You’ve given a warm, rich sense of the neighborhood of Lincoln Park, of the comfort of being @ Bryn Mawr, and the pleasures of exploring in New Zealand. You trace an affirming, ever expanding story of home, encompassing finally “every location and environment." Home expands way beyond where you grew up to “everything…the loving and safe environment you are in.” Most heartening is your account of strangers who turn into friends, who turn into family.

This sounds like a great place to live!

So I’m wondering what will happen, this week, when you encounter Timothy Morton’s account of thinking ecologically, and his insistence that in doing so we need to take account of the “strange strangeness” of the world. In his story, strangers don’t turn into familiars, but rather become more strange, the more we get to know them. And we too, the more we dig, the harder we try to understand ourselves, become strange and stranger.

There is just a hint of this sort of “crack” in your essay, when you say that “my mother didn’t want me staying for too long or going to deep into the woods. Regardless of the restrictions I was given I still had the sense of being at home with nature. I only wish I could have explored more.”

What was your mother afraid of for you? What might you have found, had you explored more? Is the world, writ large and better known, entirely “loving and warm”? How do you know that? What is your data? How big are you thinking? (Hurricanes, glacier melt…?) If “home now encompasses everything,” does it encompass psychological and geological disaster?

I look forward to hearing--

In the interim, please read the essays written by Lisa and aphorisnt. Make a private post, Sunday evening, about where you see exile in their stories of home (as well as in your own), and bring copies of all three with you, for discussion in Monday’s class.  Thanks!