The words "home" and "hometown" have always confused me. Such simple words, yet it seems I've never understood what they really mean.
In ninth grade, I made a myspace. Clearly, there was some info I had to fill out. Gender: Female, Age: 15, Birth Date: 12.22.90, Religion: Atheist, Sexuality: Bi-curious (I changed that to Straight about a month later and it remained such, at least on myspace, for the remainder of high school). And, finally, the one that caused me the most trouble: "Hometown".
Unsure as to what I should say, I went and checked all my friend's profiles, wondering what their answer was. All of them referenced the place they spent their childhood, or the place they were born. Often, I knew they barely spent any of their life actually living there, but somehow they still referred to it as their hometown.
For a while, my hometown was listed as Khabarovsk, Russia. I figured that made sense: I lived there until I was seven, and then again when I was eight going on nine. Yet, somehow, I hated of thinking of Khabarovsk as my hometown. "Home", I've been told, "is where the heart is". Well, very little of my heart is in Russia. In fact, most of my heart hated Russia and hated being Russian. I hated being associated with Russian people, hated having an accent, hated standing out, hated any reference to Russia, hated everything that had to do with the one place I just so happened to be born. Khabarovsk, Russia, was not my hometown.
I then considered all the places I'd lived. Pullman, WA was not my hometown. Oh, I loved it dearly. I still remember its playgrounds, parks, libraries, and McDonalds. This was the first town in the United States that I lived in, and I loved it. Only I made no connection with the town or the people in it. I could have lived in any other town, and I would have learned just as much. I was a happy loner child, and I read a lot and colored a lot and spent a lot of time swinging, but I seldom spoke to any peers, to the extent that it worried my teachers, my principle, and the school psychologist. Without people to connect to, I can't imagine Pullman being my hometown.
After Pullman, I lived in Glen Ellyn, IL. For the first time in my life, I thought I had friends. "Thought" is the keyword. I really didn't. I only interacted with people within the classroom, while during lunch and recess, I was entirely alone. Still, class was lots of fun. For the first time in my life, in Glen Ellyn, I lived in a house. A huge huge house my stepdad renovated himself about a billion times over, a house which was actually two houses, two zipcodes, and two cities (Glen Ellyn and Glendale Heights). Also, unlike the small college town of Pullman, WA, Glen Ellyn was a suburb. I developed a sense of living in a larger community: Chicagoland. To this day, I still feel connected to anyone who's ever inhabited that area, especially those who've lived in the western suburbs. Nonetheless, after just a year, there is no way that Glen Ellyn could be my hometown.
I started sixth grade at West Middle School in Colorado. Middle school was miserable. I lived in Glendale, a small island-town far away from the rest of the Cherry Creek School District, far away from all my friends. I hated everyone that lived in Glendale and despised every bus ride to and from school. At school, I befriended the girls who were at the top of the social hierarchy. "Befriended" is not an accurate word. I struggled with non-verbal communication and failed to realize that I was not one of their friends, just someone who stood around all the time and was especially annoying. After those three horrible years, I never thought that Colorado could ever be my home.
The first place I ever regarded as a hometown was Palo Alto, California. I lived there my freshman year of highschool. For the first time in my life, I made friends, had a boyfriend, went out, enjoyed life. We had inside jokes, "our spots", and made tons of great memories. I blossomed into a person in California, but I still had a long way to go.
On a somewhat aside, I made a very interesting socio-geographic observation about suburbia. Bay Area and Chicagoland suburbs are very different from newer Denver suburbs. In Chicago and the Bay, every town had a strong personal identity, including somewhat clear boundaries and a downtown. Each suburb had a highschool of its own, so everyone who goes to that highschool lives in the same town. Thus, it was easy to relate to and to befriend everyone and anyone in the school. In Colorado, on the other hand, multiple suburbs fed into both my middle and my highschool. Often, kids would self-segregate based on neighborhood. That led to other types of segregation, mostly race and class segregation, and created powerful social hierarchies based mostly on wealth. I believe another factor contributed to the wealth-based hierarchy: in Palo Alto and Glen Ellyn, the downtown was a wonderful place to hang out. When the suburb has no downtown, the only place for youth to assemble is the mall, which naturally draws attention to wealth. I talked to my AP Human Geography teacher about this last year (not the segregation, but the suburbs' personal identities), and he said that the reason this is the case is because Chicagoland and Bay Area suburbs are older than Denver Metro Area suburbs. Older suburbs around Denver - such as Littleton and Aurora - have much stronger personal identities, and even might have their own downtowns. I will refer to this paragraph later in this blog.
After a year in California, I, sadly, moved back to Denver. Things were tough at first. I lived once again in Glendale, and hated Creek. It took me a long time to find my place, and I reluctantly spent a lot of time alone, seldom going out. That, combined with intense adjustment depression, made my first year back especially difficult.
The summer before my Junior year of highschool, my mom purchased her first home. It was close - only two miles away - to my school and much closer to all my friends. At last, it was easier to go out, to hang out, to have fun. I began to settle in, and even learned that there are things I could enjoy about Creek (such as the many fun courses it offers). For the first time in my life, I began to feel like I have a home and a hometown. I made some of the best friends in the world my last two years of highschool and had the time of my life. It was then that I also fell in love with Colorado, and I knew that my heart will always stay here. I love the mountains, I love Denver, and I love this amazing state.
Also, around that time of my life, I began going to Tomahawk Ranch as a CIT. Tomahawk is a home like no other, a retreat not from stress or worry, but from the stress and worry of the real world. It's a place to dream, to love, and to be yourself. The friends I made at TR are amazing, and I will forever consider it my home.
Despite the fact that I now know what my hometown is, my confusion about what to call it has not gone away. Whenever someone asks me where my hometown is, I usually say "Denver" or "Denver suburbs". Technically, my address says "Englewood", but I don't live in Englewood. I remember during college orientation, I was talking to a guy from the Denver Metro Area, and he asked me where I'm from. "Denver-ish," I answered, and he accurately replied with, "Greenwood Village? Centennial?" "Yeah," I laughed, "How'd you know?" "Denver-ish usually means Greenwood Village or Centennial. People from Aurora say Aurora, people from Littleton say Littleton, people from Denver say Denver, people from Highlands Ranch say Highlands Ranch. People from Greenwood Village and Centennial don't know what to say." Which is true. Greenwood Village and Centennial have very unusual boundaries, contain many unincorporated neighborhoods, and have no personal identity. The closest thing we have to a downtown is the Denver Tech Center, which is mostly office buildings and places to eat, and even that's fairly spread out. Lately, to Colorado natives, I've begun answering "Greenwood Village", though I'm slightly embarrassed. I had a really good conversation with a girl from Highlands Ranch about how much it sucks to be from "one of those" embarrassing places.
The word "home" also took on a new meaning for me lately. I've realized that, in college, "home" refers to your hometown and "school" refers to where you live most of the year. Well, somehow, that just doesn't work for me. Sure, I refer to "home" as "home", but it's not the same definition of home that I've used all my life, that word took on a meaning that's entirely new. When it's time to head back to Boulder, I tell my family that I'm going "home". I've had many temporary homes in my life, and this is one of them. But, just because its temporary, that doesn't make it any less of a home. I love Boulder, I love the people I've met here, I'm beginning to love my school, and I love living up here. This is, truly, home.
Edit: Colorado is my home. I've noticed that, whenever I go out of town, even for just a weekend, I feel so much joy when I return. Denver - downtown Denver - is my home, and whenever I come home from Boulder, I get a rush whenever I feel myself approaching the city. Boulder is also my home, I miss it so much when I'm away, and I feel happy the moment I return. 01.06.10