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Dunbar: Hometowns offer comfort throughout college years

Blair Dunbar, Columnist

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It’s like the plot of any romantic comedy made in the past ten years: Two characters meet and hate each other. Over time, the ice breaks and the two fall in love. The only difference in this story is it’s not about two people, but one woman and her hometown.

I grew up in Geneva, Ill., a small suburb about an hour and a half west of Chicago. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I went to a program at Northwestern. When I came back, Geneva seemed like such a horrible place to live.

My hometown is 96 percent white and largely Catholic or Protestant. Everyone knows or is related to everyone else. Everyone shares the same ideas. I loved the diversity and excitement I experienced at Northwestern. For the next three years of high school, all I wanted to do was leave for college.

Now I find myself longing for home. The college atmosphere becomes so suffocating, and I yearn to eat at my family’s favorite pub or get coffee at the local coffeehouse. I long for the quiet. What changed?

I know the easy answers. Hometowns are comfortable and familiar. You never know what you have until it’s gone. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. But I think there’s more to it than all those cliches.

Just last week, my grandma had a severe stroke. We found out she was not going to recover. Rather than keeping her on a feeding tube, we decided to let her go. My grandparents live in Des Moines, Iowa, so my brother came in from Boston, and we took the five-hour drive. It was during this trip that I realized how NOT ready I was to be an adult.

For one thing, I couldn’t imagine driving five hours by myself. Second, I didn’t even think about where I would stay. When my brother told me he had made hotel reservations, I realized I had completely forgotten. How could I forget to get a hotel room? Once we got to the hospital, I was a wreck. I couldn’t stop crying and didn’t know what to do with myself. Meanwhile, everyone else was running around, talking to my grandmother, making decisions or caring for my grandfather.

It’s not just during these difficult situations that I have realized how not ready I am for the real world. I realize it every day when I mismanage my budget or forget to make my doctors’ appointments. I’ve talked in previous columns about how much we still rely on our parents throughout college. Being an adult legally doesn’t make you an adult emotionally.

That’s why I have grown to love my hometown. It reminds me of being a kid. When I go home, I have a few days to sleep in my own bed and have my food prepared for me. I can walk down the street and remember late-night walks with my dog and countless coffee dates. I can see my old high school, middle school and elementary school. All my favorite memories flood back.

College is a bubble. On one side of the bubble is the real world, and on the other is your childhood. Going back home brings you back to your childhood, far away from the encroachment of “real life.” Every once in awhile it’s nice to take a break. It’s nice to have someone care for you. Pretty soon, you really will be on your own.

When I was in high school, I never would have thought for a second I would miss Geneva. In fact, my dream was to move to the East Coast. NU was my last choice for a school, primarily because it was only an hour and a half away from my house. Now, I can’t imagine not being able to go home for a weekend.

Eventually, I’ll move away for a while. I don’t want to be a person who stays in the same place forever. There’s a big world to discover, but I’m beginning to understand why many people move back to where they grew up.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at blairdunbar2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to forum@dailynorthwestern.com.

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