On Going Home: Confronting a Stigma

After Thanksgiving break, Professor Hentyle Yapp asked my Gender & Women’s Studies class how our breaks had been. People raised their hands, describing adorable family traditions or delicious family recipes. Several people had seen the new Hunger Games movie with their families over the break. After a couple minutes, Hentyle gently ended the discussion, noting that while it was lovely to hear all these stories of home, it was also important to remember that some people don’t go home for Thanksgiving, some for financial reasons, some because they just don’t like going home.

Thank you, I thought, as someone who often falls into the latter category.

At a time when I was receiving countless “look I’m home!” snapchats and Instagram was flooded with happy families and #thankful hashtags, his words were refreshing and comforting: It’s okay if you don’t love going home. It’s okay if you don’t treasure family time the way some other people do.

Let me note now that I am privileged in a couple of ways: I have the financial means to go home over breaks and I have a place to call home (there are over 58,000 homeless college students in the United States today).

When I say I don’t like going home, I can add a lot of caveats. I don’t mind being home for short periods of time. There are certain parts of being home that I really do enjoy. There are people I look forward to seeing. This doesn’t mean I want to be in Claremont all the time or that my life in Claremont is perfect. I too am guilty of sending “OMG HOME!” snapchats.

But when it comes down to it, breaks are difficult for me, for a variety of personal reasons that I won’t delve into. Broadly speaking, families are complicated and places can carry powerful memories, both good and bad. We all change and grow a lot at college, and some people find it difficult to reconcile the ideas they’ve learned at school with the status quo at home. Things at home can change. Friends and family members can change. Holidays can be stressful. Home can be boring. Beyond these, there are a million other reasons one might not like going home, or might not be able to go home.

I write about this partially because it’s timelythis winter break is the first significant chunk of time I’ve spent at home for a couple yearsbut also because I want to confront a stigma. At Pomona, there is this pressure to love “going home,” which leaves me, and I’m sure many others, feeling guilty and alone. We question ourselves, we blame ourselves: Why isn’t my home life as perfect as everyone else’s? Why can’t I just enjoy going home like everyone else? What’s wrong with me/my family?

To current and future Pomona students: There is nothing wrong with you. It’s perfectly okay not to love spending time at home. It’s okay not to go home at all. And it’s okay to admit that–I find it admirable when people do. For those of you who do go home and love it, just recognize that not everyone loves going home, not everyone can go home, and not everyone has a place to call home.