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By the age of 10, I had already moved eight times. Since then, I’ve moved six more. The first few times, I remember being frustrated at having to shove my favorite toys into boxes and the U-Haul truck pulling in and out of my driveway. As I got older, I adopted an angsty attitude toward the idea, even refusing to paint or put up photos on the walls of the many bedrooms I have occupied. For quite some time now, I have lived in the same house–all I ever wanted, right? 

After a childhood of constant change and a revolving door of neighbors, it’s been a bit overwhelming to go to school with the same people for so long. I often forget that picking up my life and moving across a state border is not a valid solution to drama in the locker room. Similarly, I miss so many of my friends that I once lived so close to, and I frequently reflect on time spent with family members that I no longer see. I can’t even describe the butterflies in my stomach every time I started at a new school. 

Looking back, I know that those feelings were completely normal. To start over in an entirely new place is never easy, no matter how old you get. However, what does change with time is the understanding that the house you live in and even how long you’ve lived there does not define your belonging. Growing up, I clung to the idea that my memories–Christmas mornings, soccer in the backyard, block parties, waiting at the bus stop with my best friend–would exist only in the confinements of a singular address. I could not have been more wrong. 

Such memories built my character, and I carry them with me every day despite living in a different state from when I was 10. My Tweety Bird t-shirt sits in a box in my basement, but I know it’s there. Distanced family members give the tightest hugs when I see them on holidays. I say with pride that I have known so many kinds of beautiful people who have deeply impacted me. 

Additionally, goodbyes are never permanent, especially today. It takes just five seconds to find someone on Instagram or Facebook or to type their phone number into your contacts list. A blessing of the quick-moving world of technology is easy communication with those we aren’t privileged to see on a daily basis. Chances are, when you miss them, they miss you too. Take advantage of phone calls and text messages. Leaving a zip code does not have to mean leaving your loved ones behind.

I sit in a room–my room–with posters and light purple walls and my piano and books that remind me that any house can become a home. Though it sounds cliche, it really is the people you are with, instead of the place, that builds such an environment. Next year, I will pack my favorite outfits and books and carry them off to college. I look forward to the new opportunities that will present themselves out in the big wide world, but I know that I will always have a place where I can feel at home. Just because I will no longer spend late nights and early mornings in my teenage bedroom doesn’t mean I can never come back, and I know that will be a valuable thought for whenever I feel lost. I can always anchor back to my closest family members, no matter how many miles separate us.