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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: The culture shock of home


The last time I stood staring at the Rocky Mountains of Colorado was January 1. As I finished packing my car, I drove the 15 hours back to Indiana, knowing the next time I looked at that same mountain range I have stared at and admired since I was three years old, I would be an entirely different person.  

Even though I had left my home a dozen times before, this time felt different. I remember thinking to myself as I drove along I-70 that I would never be this version of myself again. I finished my semester in Indiana then boarded a flight to Prague, Czechia.  

It is now my only personality trait to explain to people that I then backpacked Europe for two months and my entire perspective on life changed. Who I am as a person changed. I found an inner peace that I had never found prior.  

Yet, I was excited to return home to Colorado.  

No matter how hard I tried to escape it, Colorado will always be my home and brings out a side of me I tend to forget exists. Maybe it’s that granola side of me I push deep down while in Indiana or maybe it is simply the inner western, country music loving, cowboy side of me that I pretend doesn’t exist.  

Either way, Colorado holds a special place in my heart and every time I come, I fall right back into the groove of old routines and the life I once had.  

However, this time, as I landed at Denver International Airport, I knew it wasn’t going to be the same.  

[Related: COLUMN: Vermont: a better version of home]

My mom moved out of our old house to a new one a little further outside the town I grew up in. I had never seen the house and in all my years of being in Colorado, I had never driven through the city in great detail.  

The first week of being home, I felt out of place in my own life.  

Not only did the jet lag wake me up at 5:00 a.m. every day, but I was so used to walking everywhere in Europe and being active at all points of the day, that lying in bed all day didn’t feel adequate. Instead, I pulled myself out of bed at 6:00 a.m. every day and went on a walk around the neighborhood. I would listen to music and just try to remind myself that this was where I needed to be in that moment. I needed a break and to have some simplicity for the first time all year.  

I would get in my car and hesitate before shifting into drive. As dumb as it sounds, driving a massive car is a little scary after two months of not sitting behind a steering wheel.  

I would go to text my high school friends and then realize I now live 45 minutes away and even if I didn’t, they would probably be busy with work or college friends since they went to school in-state.  

I had these reoccurring reminders that life went on while I was away.  

My world here in Colorado didn’t stop for the six months I was away, no matter how hard I tried to forget it. I felt some small culture shocks when I landed in Europe, but I adjusted quickly. Yet, I genuinely feel like I had more culture shock coming home than I did leaving.  

I changed so much in those six months, but it never occurred to me the rest of my life at home would, too. It was always my sense of normalcy. My place that I could come back to and feel safe and at ease.  

It took me a while to adjust to the fact that this town and the people inside it were not the same as when I left. Yet, slowly, as the last few weeks have gone on, I found a new sense of normalcy. I found joy in the simplicity — going for drives with my brother or cooking dinner for my family instead of just myself. Those morning walks became an everyday routine, except not at 6:00 a.m. anymore.  

It can feel really lonely to feel like the outsider in your own life, but there is good in every challenging situation. Life keeps moving, but we always find our place again in the new shifted reality that has become of the world we once knew. We find a new version of ourselves, or we change our perspective on what is around us.  

[Related: OPINION: Leaving home isn't the hardest part — coming home is]

I don’t have all the answers for this one, especially considering I’m still learning it in the moment. However, I truly believe that with each place and person we call home, we discover a new version of ourselves that looks for its own form of happiness.  

Home doesn’t have to be a place. For me, no matter how often we move houses or how far away I go from home, I can feel at home if I have loved ones around. The people around us that know and love us, help us adjust and settle into whatever the new normalcy may be and create a new home; even if only temporary.  

Gentry Keener (she/her) is a junior studying journalism and political science.

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