An Unfamiliar Home

An Unfamiliar Home

I’m home for the holidays, and it’s weird.

Two months, it turns out, is just long enough to disrupt the autopilot habits which allow you to find things in the dark, but not long enough for things to seem entirely unfamiliar. Aided by the return of my older brother to the familial nest, the house has changed: not drastically, but enough that I find myself looking for things in the wrong places. It is personalised and homely and absolutely full of stuff.

And then there’s my room. It seems tiny. The ceiling is lower, the door smaller, and the yellow walls brighter. My bed seems too soft, my radiator too warm, and there are books everywhere. Each shelf is overfull and what with the library books I had to bring home, I have stacks everywhere. It’s hard to believe I left a large number in my room at uni.

Currently, very little of my stuff has been unpacked. I’m still trying to work out where the various cardboard boxes already in my room came from (under my bed, where my parents are storing a futon) to have the time or floor space to unpack my clothes, but walking around in pyjamas is less of a good idea when there’s somebody in the house trying to fix the boiler. Since my desk seems to have been a repository for dumping things, I haven’t yet cleared it enough to unpack my computer, so I’m writing this on my tablet.

Coming home is confusing and odd and I’m realising what spending half my life in another city really means.

It means never having the exact book I want to read because it’s in my other room. It means missing my parents while I’m away and missing my friends when I’m home. It means longing for familiarity and then finding that strangeness is everywhere. It means waking up in the morning and being bewildered as to where I am; thinking I hear a knock on the door and wondering if I need to get up to answer it.

It means the concept of ‘home’ becomes slightly less clear-cut.

Two months and a week seems like a long time, perhaps because so many of the things I experienced while I was away were new, and therefore I took notice of them. Rather than a familiar unremarkable daily routine, everything needed to be considered and experienced, so the days didn’t blur so much into one.

But it also feels like I’ve hardly been gone at all, and only the changes to my house — not least the presence of my brother, who hasn’t lived here for some time — remind me of the time that’s passed.

As I attempt to unpack and find a home for many refugee clothes and books, I can feel myself adjusting to the space around me. Understanding it again; becoming familiar with a lower ceiling and a brighter colour scheme. Perhaps this change of place will have dislodged my writing block and once I’ve unpacked my computer, I’ll be able to create something again, having tripped my creative brain into working again.

Or perhaps I’ll continue to be blocked here. But I almost feel that wouldn’t be so bad, because here I have a great many distractions. Unpacking and tidying. All of Merlin on DVD. Endless books. Friends I haven’t seen in months. A flute I played this morning for the first time in a very long time. Things that will keep me from sinking inside my own head.

Oh, and of course, I have to do some Christmas shopping, because I’ve barely thought about that so far. It’s snuck up on me out of nowhere.

Since I’m writing on my tablet and it’s a little hard on the wrists, I’ll leave this post here and go back to the tasks at hand. But when my computer’s back up and running I hope to be back more fully, with no lectures to distract me from the all-important internet.

Are you returning home after an absence because of school or university? Does it feel weird to you too? I’m hoping this is a common phenomenon and not just my brain reacting oddly. Let me know.

4 thoughts on “An Unfamiliar Home

  1. I haven’t come home from Uni for many years, but I do recall feeling slightly odd both on my return home and my return back to Uni.

    Having lived away from my mother for decades now, my childhood home feels very small and lacking in the things I hadn’t realised I habitually expect to have nearby.

    So I think it is entirely normal to feel weird.

    1. That’s good to know. I guessed it probably would be — and was somewhat apprehensive about coming home for that very reason. I seem to have adjusted to the absurdly massive doors and high ceilings of college more than I thought I had, though.

  2. I recently had the opposite experience–our daughter came home from uni for the first time for the Thanksgiving holiday a few weeks ago. It was wonderful to see her, and we’re looking forward to the Christmas holidays too. But it was weird to have to re-adjust to her being here, trying to stay quiet sometimes so she could sleep or study (because, homework even on holidays), sharing the space again with her things.

    1. Yeah, I think my parents have had a double dose of that with my brother moving back in a month ago and now I’m here as well. Having had an empty nest for a few weeks they now have TWO kids to put up with — and my brother’s using the front room as a recording studio while I have a ludicrous number of books. I feel sorry for them.

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