I don't know how it's possible, but winter break is almost over. Tomorrow I will leave Richmond and head back to my beloved Charleston. It's the fourth Christmas I've had since college started, but this break feels different. Next Christmas I won't be a college student. I'm still trying to figure out what I will be, but right now it's a little unclear. Whatever or wherever I am though, I know I probably won't have a pre-packaged month long break. Hopefully I'll have a life, a real bona-fide, me controlled and (at least partially) me financed life. All of which has got me thinking.
In college it's kind of like you have a split personality, the you that's at school and the you that's at home. And you get to indulge both sides, play both roles, be these two different people. Even my different rooms reflect the different versions of myself. In Charleston my room is painted a tasteful taupe. The walls are covered in photographs from my time in Europe, each of them bordered with a simple black frame. I have a huge grown-up desk and a grown up desk chair to match it. And I have a queen sized grown up bed. All in all, it's a tasteful, mature (except for my Andy Roddick and The Format posters - but I can't have a room that's more mature than me) adultish bedroom. And then I come home to Richmond and I'm freeze framed back into my middle school days. We moved into our current house when I was fourteen and I made it my personal mission to decorate my bedroom. So even though I'm 22, when I come home I'm surrounded by the fourteen year old me's version of a dream room. My walls are a shockingly bright pink (my brother often jokes that from outside it looks like my room is glowing). I have a zebra print rug and a leopard print stool. The curtains are made up of a pink and green plaid pattern. I still have a James Dean poster and a Breakfast Club poster on my walls. My shelves are lined with old swim team, softball and basketball trophies leftover from elementary school. Worn, beloved stuffed animals that my mom could never convince me to get rid of sit idly on top of bookshelves. Even more beloved stuffed animals retain their places on furniture or in chairs. My twin bed is the same bed I slept in as soon as I moved on from a crib. In every sense, my bedroom at home is my childhood personified. And it's always weird when I first get home for break. I think as college students, we get really good at pretending to be grown up when we're away from home. We do our own grocery shopping and stay up as late as we want and go out on school nights. We pay electric bills and squash bugs and fix things (or call our landlords to do it). But then we come home, and suddenly all of that's gone. Mom is in the kitchen making dinner. Dad will run out to the store to buy soft drinks. And for me I end up in a room that makes it very hard to feel grown up. I get used to it as the break goes on, but it seems there's always a moment when I first arrive and when I'm about to leave that simultaneously comforts me and breaks my heart. Growing up is inevitable. Everyone knows that. But the physical remnants of childhood can stay on for a long time, maybe even forever. And you can touch these remnants and hold them, but all it really accomplishes is making you ache for the person who these things really belonged to, a person that doesn't really exist anymore, at least not in the same way. And so when I come into my room for the first time after being gone for a while, and flick on the lights and see all of the things that fourteen year old me loved or even seventeen year old me loved, all of the silly trinkets and old pictures in dusty frames, it's like the two versions of myself (college version and childhood version) collide so forcefully that I end up in some lost place in between the two. Yes, you can come home again, but it's not easy, or at least it never has been for me. It always takes me a while to get my bearings whenever I travel between the two worlds that make up my life right now, the world of pink and the world of taupe. Maybe until I really start my own life, one that's secure and at least semi-permanent, I'm always going to be weaving back and forth, jumping from one me to the next. I guess for right now I'm just half taupe, half bright pink, half mature and independent, half still content to curl up in my childhood bed surrounded by all of the things that remind me of being a kid.