I will never forget the butterflies and excitement I felt the day I moved into my AC-less and not-so-pleasant smelling dorm room in Ikenberry. I will never forget the panic of leaving the home I grew up in and the mom who was quietly trying to keep it together as she helped me unpack my room. Everything was scary and new. I loved it. I knew this was a moment of change in my life, but would never realize just how big that change would come to be.
JMU has given me once in a lifetime experiences. It has given me a chance to travel the world, find my passion in life, and the greatest humans with whom I get to share life with.
Above all, it gave me a home when mine was no longer there.
One year is all it took for my life to turn upside down. After losing my mom I found it hard to go home. The home I had spent 15 years of my life in was no longer the same. Emotionally it was hard to be around everything she once touched. Things grew more difficult in the midst of reassembling life after loss when my relationship with my father became rocky. Going home stopped becoming an option and as the months passed, the house that was so hard to leave that day I was moving into my dorm became foreign.
As I began to spend breaks here it was hard to tell people that I wasn’t going home. There have been times that I have lied and just said that I was, finding it easier than explaining not leaving to go back to my childhood bedroom and a mother’s home cooked meal. I have taken my time alone here as a chance to explore the town and take in the empty campus. In the quiet times is when I remember just how lucky I am.
This place has given me a sanctuary to grieve and collect myself. It has shown me what success and failure look like, and that hard work and too much fun can coexist. It is the place I’ve learned to understand disappointment and hurt, but found that life is bigger than any moment in which those are experienced. It’s the place that taught me the kind of home I want, the kind I need, and how to be someone who shared that with those around me.
As I reflected on the fact that I have less than 50 days till graduation I realized that over time JMU has become more than my university. It is more than the name on my degree. It has become my home. Because home is a place where you grow, share experiences with the people you consider your family, and find comfort when things are difficult.
As I get ready to leave and create “home” somewhere else I can’t help but to feel so unbelievably grateful for this place. The relationships that have been made here, the opportunities it has led me to, and the sense of familiarity it gave me when I was trying to find myself in a life that I no longer knew – something I will forever carry with me.
To JMU and the beautiful people it has brought me – thank you for being my home these last 4 years.