Gone Beyond Repair

My CA (like an RA) told me before the year was out that going home the summer after your freshman year of college is weird and I would hate it. I didn’t want to believe her. I’d gone home now for October break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring break, and a week where mono hit me like a freight train. I could handle going home, especially since I had to be on campus early in August for CA training myself.

I’ve been home ten days and I’m fantasizing about my no-AC dorm room, sans roommate but still.

It’s not that I suddenly hate everyone here. I love my parents, I love my siblings, I love my dog, and I love my high school friends that are trickling back into the area. But I have never felt more out of place. Not even in middle school, although that comes close in terms of how self-conscious, how awkward, how constantly-low-level-uncomfortable I am. I am home, but I’m not.

I feel emotionally homeless, which sounds terrible. I know, logically, that I am home, and college is not home by any means. But I don’t feel like my hometown is where I belong, and it doesn’t help when your brother is constantly reminding you that you don’t live here anymore. I feel out of place, like people notice me as an outlier, as someone who doesn’t belong here. But at college, I’m just another college kid in a small college town, which almost all of them leave after graduation because you can’t get anywhere in life if you stay in rural central Ohio, right?

Maybe it’s how much I have to be careful here. I’m not out to my brothers, any of my extended family, and most adults I know, save for a couple who kind of witnessed my self-realization occur (and helped it along by accident). A lot of things that happened at college were, frankly, pretty gay. My friends are all some kind of queer except for our “token straight friend.” I spent the majority of my weekends in my girlfriend’s dorm room. My aunt was visiting and asked if my roommate (who woke up early during the week) also woke up early on weekends and I had to lie because I honestly didn’t know.

I love college. I love being home. I just wish it felt more like it.

Title from “Jersey” by Mayday Parade.


To The Fourteen-Year-Old I Was.

I was prompted to write this after finding an unopened letter I wrote to myself at fourteen, at the end of a writing program during the summer of 2011. She wanted to know that she — I — we — turned out okay. This is what I want to say to her.

Your sophomore year will be hell.

I’m keeping it real. It’s gonna be hell. You will hate yourself and hate everyone around you. You will cry yourself to sleep. You will let her kiss you, even though you’re “straight.” (Side note: oh honey. She doesn’t matter. The rumors that follow do not matter. Don’t repress the shit out of your feelings. It makes for a weird couple weeks in college). You will let her keep kissing you, and you will not realize it, but that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach is a crush. You have a crush. On a girl. It’s okay.

You will cry in Mom’s VW bug in the school driveway and part of it will be because of that, but you will not ever say it out loud, to anyone, until you get to college. It will take almost two years of therapy for you to be totally okay with yourself and even then, your high school will loom over you, keeping you complacent. I know what you’re doing to yourself. You need a good cry and a hug and maybe some ice cream.

Mom and Dad love you. All of our family does. Your uncle is a toolbox, but you already knew that. He continues to be one, even today. Maybe even more so. Even though I am now, please don’t be afraid to be honest with Mom and Dad. There is literally nothing you could do to make them hate you. Mom keeps telling us in her letters. It gets annoying, honestly.

You will end up in therapy. You will cry in therapy. Sometimes you will not want to go, and sometimes it’s the only good part of your day. You will not end up on medication, though. You don’t realize it yet, and sometimes you forget even now, but talking about your feelings with someone — anyone — is a really cathartic thing to do. You are allowed to feel things. You think you aren’t, or you think they don’t matter or something but they do, goddammit, so feel them. Let them be ugly, let yourself be comforted because by the time you’re eighteen, people think it’s weird that you don’t like to be touched when you cry.

As for the more trivial stuff, you’d probably kick my ass. I don’t really play guitar all that much anymore. We weren’t very good to begin with. Those characters aren’t really kicking around anymore. You have their stories but you have Astrid and Sean and Max and Ingrid and they are so much more complex than the others. You’re still writing even though it’s not as much as you’d want. Writing gets hard, but that’s only because you get good. You’re bursting with stories. Tell them.

Also: Don’t go swimming in the pool after you get your nose pierced. Dye your hair after parents’ weekend. Get a job. Take a deep breath. You made it.

Today, I Forgot Where I Was.

I go to school in rural Ohio. As an East Coast native, this is a big change. Well, not so big. But it’s weird, not having the comfort of a beach (with an ocean) within ninety minutes or the proximity of New York City or even the rudeness of people. People are really fucking friendly here.

Anyway, I was walking out of my Spanish class and going to lunch, and for one split second, I forgot that this is Ohio and I am not home. I was walking down the steps to the street to cross to get to the dining hall and a cold burst of wind blew into me, and with it, the smoke of another student’s cigarette. And for one moment, it was November, and I was walking down Broadway.

I don’t doubt the power of sense memory. As an actor, I’ve studied it. I know it works. But this instance this morning was the strongest I’ve ever experienced it. Standing behind buses and trucks and inhaling the exhaust smells like summer to me, but not nearly as strongly as cold air and cigarette smoke smell like New York. I didn’t realize that that was my New York until three and a half hours ago. I didn’t realize that I missed New York as much as I did, either.

I’ve been at college for thirty-six days now and I haven’t been homesick once yet. I’m not even sure this is what homesickness is, missing a city that isn’t even your real home (yet). I don’t think I’m homesick now. I think I just want to be in New York.