October 6, 2009

Home is where the heart is

For Shoreland expats, the SCRH doesn’t quite feel like home.

The Shoreland wasn’t my first choice. Honestly, it wasn’t even in my top three. But last year, it was my home. In some ways, this was out of convenience: Home is often simply what I call the place I’ve come back to at the end of the day for a couple days straight (hotel rooms, summer camp cabins, my grandparents’ house when I visit). Still, this only happens when I am slightly in love with that place—when I’m surrounded by people that I couldn’t imagine those days without. It’s both a mark of convenience and comfort. After all, the Shoreland was a very comfortable place to be, evil radiators, oven-dwelling mice, and frequent fire drills aside. I was in a good house, I had a huge room with a great view, and taking the bus was really only horrible during that one week when it was -40 degrees outside.

So when it finally became inevitable that my first year of college was the Shoreland’s Final Year of Celebration (seriously, this time), the mere idea of changing dorms was a shock. I thought about leaving University housing: After all, if I was used to a Shoreland apartment, I might as well upgrade to a MAC one—although in this context, the word “upgrade” could be questionable. Then again, I wouldn’t know. I ended up moving to the New Dorm, otherwise known as the South Campus Residential Hall (SCRH).

Maybe there are some people out there who can make life decisions, major or otherwise, without considerable personal drama. I envy these people, because I am not one of them. In this case, drama refers to the non-juicy stuff—kind of like an episode of Gossip Girl without a Chuck–Blair subplot. It’s just a lot of blustering around, with plenty of hyperbolic sort of statements like “I’m going to hate the new dining plan!” and not much resolution. OK, maybe that does describe a Chuck–Blair subplot, but it’s a lot more entertaining on TV. And the clothes are cuter, but that’s a different story.

This indecision grew from fear. What we were afraid of was a kind of “crawling back into the womb.” At least this was how one friend described the process (in a way that made it sound much uglier than it actually was). We would be going from relative independence—with all of its semi-adult problems in the realms of transportation and nourishment and apartment life—to a very safe place of dependence. Life is easier here. We’re closer to campus. Food is easier to come by. There’s even a special little e-mail system to pick up packages.

Now, a week or so into living in the New Dorm, I don’t think I’ve called it home yet. It is very decidedly not the Shoreland. The contrasts are obvious: new vs. old, “a five-minute bus ride from campus” vs. “a stone’s throw,” sleek and compact vs. delightfully sprawling. We Shoreland expatriates were living in a place that was falling apart, and are now sleeping somewhere that is still being built.

Obviously, the falling-apart part of the Shoreland wasn’t the appeal when it came to elevators breaking down and paint chipping. But this falling apart was a sign of being lived in, of having a wonderful and rich history. You could see it in our house decorations—the walls were so old that Housing couldn’t care less what we did to them. I’m not saying the graffiti drawn on my house’s elevator (“Not a day goes by I don’t get high”) was charming, but substance use in the Shoreland is a completely different article. Basically, we could go all-out when it came to building a home. We painted the hallways, Sharpie’d our bedrooms, and hung Mardi Gras masks in the living room. Heck, we had living rooms.

This New Dorm—I’m sorry, the SCRH—is very, very new. But I still have a nice view (I’m not talking about seeing across the courtyard, by the way), and I can even see the lake if I strain my eyes enough. It isn’t the Shoreland, by any means, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad place to live. South Campus is going to spoil its residents in a different way than the Shoreland did, and we’ll all get a nice little year of lightened responsibilities. In any case, this housing community will eventually be a home. Maybe after a few more days.

Alison Howard is a second-year in the College.