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HUGHES: Don’t let homesickness, fear of change bully you

Morgan's hometown of Wautoma, Wisconsin has a population of 2,218.

Morgan's hometown of Wautoma, Wisconsin has a population of 2,218.

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If you didn’t grow up in a small town and are wondering what it’s like, it’s a lot like the movies would have you believe, at least in my experience.

The people you start grade school with are usually there with you when you graduate high school, everybody knows everybody else and you can’t leave the house without someone asking about your grandma or your dad or your sister.

There’s a lot of camouflage fashion, everyone knows when deer hunting season starts, the bleachers are always packed full for high school football games, and people give Ted Nugent more consideration than they probably should.

I grew up in Wautoma, Wisconsin, but I would bet Packer’s football season tickets that you could go to any other rural Midwest community and have a similar experience.

The last time I went home to Central Wisconsin was last spring break, and I’ve been missing it a lot lately. My remedy for homesickness was to call my dad. By the second ring I was teary-eyed and my throat was tight while Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” (one of my dad’s favorites) was playing in my head.

I’ve never been the type to get homesick; I was never the girl at the sleepover who wanted to go home early and I’ve never hesitated at the opportunity to live out of a suitcase for a while.

But here I am, a (nearly) qualifiable adult, missing home for one of the first times in my life, wishing I was driving a pickup truck past fields, dressed wholly in checkered green and brown, catching up with former teachers at the grocery store and rolling my eyes at my dad’s political philosophies.

I feel like a traitor. My exodus from Wautoma felt more like an escape at the time. I’d lived there nearly my whole life and by the end of my senior year I was out of my mind with boredom. Maybe I don’t have a right to miss it so much now. I should have given it the respect it deserved while I was a part of it.

I recognize that my longing for familiarity is a desire shared by most of my peers, and maybe it’s melodramatic to mourn a town two hours away when many students are separated from their homes by several states, if not countries.

Homesickness is something we shy away from talking about. Too many of us employ counterfeit certainty to defend ourselves from doubting the choices we make on our own.

I know homesickness seems kind of vanilla as far as topics of conversation go. It’s not a cultural phenomenon, a political controversy or a sexy or provocative topic, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed.

College is this very ephemeral experience, and that’s terrifying. Missing home is an unavoidable part of the process, but it’s also a necessary part. I know too many people frozen in time by the fear that their lives are changing beyond their control. My only advice is to not be one of them.

We’re at a point where we have to start figuring out where our lives will go next. It IS terrifying. It’s natural to want to avoid it, to fall into something comfortable and routine. But if we let ourselves be bullied by uncertainty, we’re going to end up as very bitter adults.

We’ll be old and gray soon enough. That part is inescapable. I hope when I’m sitting on my front porch rocking chair with an iced tea and a true crime novel, I can do it without being plagued by “what ifs.”

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