Commentary: What I wish I knew before I left home

Growing up, I was a homebody. I didn’t go out with friends often and I never partied. If I went shopping, out for dinner or to the movies, it was usually with my mom or dad. Even with friends in tow, I always had my parents by my side.

The University of New Brunswick Saint John is just a few minutes from my high school. I always envisioned myself going there, staying close to home, saving money and living my life the way I always had.

In high school, I realized my dreams of becoming a journalist. I decided St. Thomas University was the best option. It was a small school, it offered a great program and it was close enough to home so I could make it back on weekends.

Before moving, people always asked if I was excited to start school. My heart sank every time, my chest tightened and I breathed rapidly.

No, my brain screamed.

“Yeah, a bit nervous but excited,” I said.

I was terrified. I was always a big dreamer, I was raised to be, but I had no desire to leave home.

New beginnings

Move-in day was Sept. 5, 2015. My whole family woke up early to move me and all my belongings an hour northwest. We spent the whole day setting things up in my new room and my mom took pictures of everything to post on Facebook.

We went out for dinner for one final outing together before our goodbyes. I sat in the backseat, unable to breathe, choking back tears so no one would ask what was wrong. But my dad did.

He always knew me better than I knew myself. He could tell something was wrong with just a look.

Lauren Hoyt never realized how much she’d miss the little things from home, like telling her dad what she learned at school each day. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

I told him I was terrified. What if I couldn’t do this? What if I couldn’t handle being on my own? I didn’t know this place. I wanted to go home. I wanted my dog and my bed. I wanted one last night falling asleep to the sounds of my house.

But I was here to stay.

As time went on, I only felt more upset. While other students were having the time of their lives, I felt like I didn’t belong. Every time I left home, I cried the entire trip from my driveway to my residence parking lot.

Things finally started to get better as I transitioned into second year. Coming home to an apartment was easier than coming home to a small dorm room. Now I live alone and I enjoy it even more. But four years into school, loneliness and homesickness still hit me in waves.

Home sweet home

When students in my classes say they’re “from here,” I get a sudden feeling of missing home. I picture myself coming home from high school and opening my front door. I can hear the creaking noise we never fixed for some reason. I see my dog jumping down from her perch on the couch to greet me. I can hear some talk show playing on the TV while my mom prepares supper in the kitchen. I can feel the warmth of the wood stove downstairs as my family and I chat over our meals while the darkness of the night sets in through our big living room window.

Lauren Hoyt misses going home to her family after school every day. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

The jealousy overwhelms me. These people get to go home to their families after long days. They get to sleep in their childhood bed. They get to live the lives they’ve always known.

When I lived at home, everyday after school my dad asked, “What did you learn today?” I would always say I had learned nothing or mumble something silly. Now I’m learning things I love every day, but I can’t go home to tell him.

When you leave home, nobody tells you you’ll miss the things you never noticed before. The sound of your parent’s car pulling in after work as your dog squeals with excitement. The smell of your favourite meal while your mom serves up supper. The sunlight from your bedroom window reflected in your mirror as you wake up in the morning.

Nobody tells you how lonely it gets. They don’t tell you how it feels to be sick without your mom to take care of you. They don’t tell you how much more stressful school work is when your dad can’t sit down with you and talk you through it. They don’t tell you you’ll miss your older brothers antics, the ones that used to drive you nuts.

Nobody tells you how eerie the silence is when you don’t have a family to say goodnight to.

People just tell you how exciting it is to move and start university. They tell you life is just beginning. They don’t tell you that out of nowhere, all the things you remember from home start playing through your mind like a movie reel while you sit alone in your apartment.

One of the things Lauren Hoyt misses most about home is cuddling her dog, Holly Berry. (Lauren Hoyt/AQ)

To my family

Growing up, you never realize how much time goes into cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, all the things you need to live everyday life.

Mom, I’m sorry for all the times I made a mess after you cleaned up or complained about what was for supper  I never realized how hard you worked.

When you’re young, you don’t realize how expensive everyday life is. My grocery bill leaves me stunned sometimes, don’t even get me started on gas. Calling a tow truck to get your keys out of your locked car costs $50. Getting your computer scanned for viruses can cost hundreds.

Dad, thanks for always taking care of those things. I’m sorry I took them for granted when I was young.

Growing up with my brother, we fought almost all the time. Separate bedrooms didn’t keep us from terrorizing each other. But I can’t imagine my childhood without him.

Daniel, thanks for giving me some of the funniest memories – when we weren’t fighting. I’m sorry for being an annoying little sister sometimes.

I wish someone would have told me this. I wish I had the chance to take it all in one last time. I love visiting home, but it’s not the same anymore. Everything is a reminder of what life used to be. I wish I had one more moment there not as my parent’s place, but as home.

For anyone leaving home soon or in the future, take your time. Take it all in like a deep breath. The smells, the sounds, the people. Even if you’re itching to leave, you might miss it someday.

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