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Columns, Opinions

Suvy Qin: Home within me

Guest Columnist
Friday, May 24, 2019

A seatbelt soaked by tears; a bright yellow Penske truck packed full of things; two days of driving into the heart of the Midwest from the bayous of Louisiana. These are my memories of moving away from the first place I called home. Since then, I’ve gotten used to the motions of cramming everything I own into fraying cardboard boxes and leaving behind empty rooms. I learned to not get too attached to any place, to not grow my roots too deep — because who knows when I’ll have to uproot myself again? I was convinced that people will come and people will go, like leaves of the season. These were the walls I built around myself because I believed home could only be one place, unchanging and unmoving. Somewhere between the drive to Nebraskan cornfields and the plane ride to the Ocean State, I adopted the attitude that life is a trek best made on your own.

After I moved to Nebraska, I never truly felt that I found my place there. I could count on two hands the number of people of color in my class. I was that Asian girl who probably disappointed her parents because she wasn’t in any of the STEM clubs. I was embarrassed that my lunches were dumplings and steamed buns instead of sandwiches and pastas, self-conscious whenever I drove my parents’ car with seats peeling at the seams and tired from trying so hard to find my place. I learned to exude confidence when I felt the exact opposite. Instead of wrestling with questions of identity, I projected my insecurities into busyness, donning an air of standoffishness and aloofness. I thought community was a cute concept for college essays and applications, and yet, I constantly sought to feel at home — to feel that I belonged.

I arrived at Brown slightly wary of this place. Am I only here because the University needed representation from the Midwest? Am I going to fit in when everyone else seems so happy and so put together all the time? Am I going to be exposed for the fraud that I felt I was? I was certain that Brown would be just a stop along this journey called life, since this was only temporary after all. Four years later, it will be time to pack up and move on to the next place, I reminded myself. But just as the winter ice thaws out every spring, I found myself growing and Brown growing on me.

After two concussions in the first month of freshman spring, I remember how weak I felt, lying in my dark dorm room as tears streaked down my cheek and mourning how my workaholic lifestyle was unsustainable. I watched people rally around me, bring me food and send emails to professors when I couldn’t get up and shower without nausea. As someone who took pride in my ability to produce and achieve on my own, I was confronted with the reality that I couldn’t depend on my accomplishments and intellectual capacity to define me. In those moments of helplessness, I could feel my facade start to crumble.

Through this continuous process of wrestling with my failures and disappointments and questioning my compulsion for control, I’ve found that vulnerability is a source of strength. I recognized that the most meaningful moments are the late-night conversations over Andrews cookie slices and milk, sharing stories of struggle and resilience over cups of coffee and putting down textbooks to cry with a friend. Brown became my home when I opened up to people and pushed the boundaries of what I was comfortable with. Building community means building trust and emotional vulnerability, and I began to see that these relationships were reflections of a sense of belonging. Like a careful pruning of old branches, I am unlearning self-preservation mechanisms and ingrained fears of future uncertainty to make space for myself to grow.

The question of “Where is home for you?” is still complicated to answer, but I know that Brown has taught me that home is not a place. Home is within me — that feeling of being at home is not defined by distance or location, but rather by my own willingness to open up to those around me. To be home is to belong as you are, to be known in a world of unknowns. As I part ways with Brown, it will be a bittersweet goodbye, but I’m confident I can weather whatever comes ahead, because I can always trace my roots home.

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