Columns

Taneil Ruffin: Homesickness

By
Guest Columnist
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2017

Homesickness has plagued me for longer than I would like to admit. One of my only memories from pre-school is crying by the classroom door after my mom dropped me off for the day. Once my parents went back to Pennsylvania after visiting me during family weekend of my sophomore year of college, I got in my bed and sobbed.

During my first semester at Brown, I remember asking a junior who was in a group project with me when Brown would feel like home to me. “Around Thanksgiving break sophomore year,” she said. It was oddly specific and further off than I had anticipated, but I was hopeful and excited to develop some sort of place attachment to the university where I’d chosen to spend the next four years of my life.

Thanksgiving came sophomore year and, indeed, some friends had begun referring to their dorm rooms as home. When friends would send me texts saying they were studying at home, I had gotten into the habit of replying, “Wait what?! Do you mean New Jersey or like Harkness?” For a lot of my peers, home now meant not only where they were from but also spaces at Brown. Not for me, though. I tried adding some Pinterest-recommended “homey” touches to my dorm room, but neither pictures of my family and high school friends nor the plant in my window sill that I named Buddy (RIP) could give me that meaningful connection with Brown that many claimed to have. For me, home was still in Pennsylvania with my mom, dad and brother whom I continued to count on for a space where I could be myself.

But eventually the day came. When I said “home,” I meant Brown, not the blue and white house in Pennsylvania where I had grown up. I first said it on Dec. 14, 2015. I remember the exact day because, naturally, I posted a photo on Instagram to commemorate the moment with a sappy yet witty caption, and also because it had been something I had wanted to feel for the past two and a half years.

In those years before I was capable of calling Brown home, I had known home to be much more than a physical place; it was, more importantly, a feeling. Brown is my home because of the people I have met here who have provided me with a sense of security in becoming who I aspire to be — a writer, a historian, a wannabe comedian, a mentor and a friend.

So, if you were to ask me about my home now, I would tell you about the intersection of Charlesfield and Thayer, the location that defaults to “Home” on my phone’s map app.

Or I would mention sitting at a sticky table in the front cave at the Ratty with Maddy.

Or studying and watching strange YouTube videos in J. Walter Wilson with Kelsey and Baylor.

Or 195 Angell Street and the Herald staffers.

Or my mentors’ offices in Peter Green and Sharpe Houses.

Or Unit 18 in West Andrews.

Or the basement of Faunce with Lauren.

I’d tell you about Brown.