Home.

Happy December 24th (whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, something else, or nothing at all, I hope you all had a fantastic day)!


For me, it’s Christmas Eve and I am home for the holidays.  As I have grown up and have moved away it has gotten harder for me to determine where “home” is.  This year especially, I am struggling to find this feeling of “home”…but my best friend Monica helped me realize that home truly is a feeling and not a place as it is traditionally defined.

I grew up in Beulah, where my entire family was born and raised…and never left.  I love the Lake, the closeness to family, the abundance of nature, and the fact that I can hike or run wherever I want in this county…and know exactly how far away from my house (and a public restroom) I am.

When I moved to Marquette for college, I gained a new “home”.  I fell deeply, madly, wildly in love with the upper peninsula, Lake Superior, the small-town feel in a mid-sized city, and my alma mater.  I fell in love with the new experiences and opportunities that I was offered in Marquette, and I felt welcomed by all of the amazing people I met in my four years there.

As you all know, I have been in South Dakota for the past six months, and I am struggling to find my place there.  I am far away from all of the people that I love.  I am no longer a walk away from a Great Lake.

It’s been tough.  But what I do have there are a few great new friends, an amazing job surrounded by some of the most driven and determined men I have ever met, and a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have ever been offered had I stayed in Michigan.


So, while I am more than excited to be back in Michigan for the holiday season, I also have had this weird sensation that something is different this year.  Something seems off.  Something is missing.  I am not sure what this is, but I haven’t been in the holiday spirit as I usually am.  I can’t seem to get excited about anything.  I don’t care to go out and play in the snow.  I don’t like the cold weather (thankful for the 40 degree warmth we had today!).  I don’t want to party or celebrate.  I actually just finished wrapping gifts only for them to be opened in less than 12 hours, and I haven’t put a single ornament on my family tree.

The closest I have felt to myself since being back in Michigan was earlier this week when I made the trip to Marquette to see a few people before we all got too busy with family gatherings and year-end parties.

Those digits are not only permanently on my arm, but in my heart as well.  I was overwhelmed with that feeling of “home” the entire time I was there.  Something about Lake Superior seems to do that to me…

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Photo Credit: Senja Spelman

I was able to catch up with some of my Marquette Family.  Spending time with my breakfast buddy, dear friend, and former supervisor, Alexandra was a highlight of my trip.  Thanks for the place to stay, the cat cuddles, and the constant laughs.

Thank you to two of my greatest mentors, Josh and Sarah for grabbing pizza and drinks with me and for sharing all of your insight about grad school, moving away from home, and all things life.

Jeff, you will always be one of my biggest role models.  You welcomed me back with open arms and I was pleasantly surprised by your support and encouragement in my endeavors as a blogger as well as the obvious support you’ve given me in the last few years as my boss.

I love knowing that Senja will drop whatever she’s doing to grab Third Street Bagel with me and catch a hike up Sugarloaf before sunset and that Ryan is willing to extend his stay in Marquette just to sit at BabyCakes for a few hours with me because we are the same human and both require meaningful conversation, endless amounts of coffee, and great muffins for survival.

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Catching up with Rory and Nick and hearing about their crazy first semester this year both as RA’s and as science majors was a ton of fun.  I give you both props for being able to balance the work of a RA and that of a person studying anything in the medical field.  You both amaze and inspire me daily.  I am grateful for the time that we spent together while I was still in school and loved seeing you this week.  I can’t wait to see what this next semester brings for you!

And last but not least, Erin, the one who is always as equally a mess as I am.  You woke up late for our breakfast date, and probably skipped a shower so that you could at least grab coffee with me before you ran off to work.  Always thankful to Monica for introducing us…because we’ve been the three amigos ever since (mostly when we are drinking margs at Sol Azteca, but still…).

Every moment in the company of these great pals was another reminder of what it means to me to be “home”.


So, instead of focusing on the place that I am headed and trying to make that place “home”, I want to try to focus on those simple moments in life in which I already feel it.

As Switchfoot once said: This is home.  (That reference was for you, Sam Red!)

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Happy Holidays!

-Joel

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