What makes a place great? What makes it worth calling home? Short answer: because it is yours.
If you ask most college students, they will say they could not wait to get the heck out of wherever they are from. The smalltown girl wants to see the wider world. The guy from the suburbs is tired of his stuffy neighborhood’s rules. The city kids want a space of their own to do as they please.
Whether nestled in beautiful Bloomington or bustling downtown Indianapolis, the university campus is a place of freedom, excitement, and self-discovery.
As students branch out and make use of their newfound independence, it can be easy for their feelings towards home to fall out of balance. Not everyone will return to where they came from after college, and that is ok, but everyone ought to have somewhere they are dedicated to as “home.”
Wherever you choose to settle and build a life after college, you ought to love it even if the place may not seem to deserve it.
English author G.K. Chesterton wrote “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”
When the “city” of Rome was founded, it was little more than a bandit camp. As the people lived there though, they began to think of themselves as “Romans” and became dedicated to making their home a place worth loving.
The city grew and prospered under a republican government and the protection of citizen soldiers. If the Romans had not first loved that collection of huts in the middle of nowhere, Rome may not have found such a prominent place in our history books.
Loving a place as home does not mean you need to overlook its warts.
Every place has its pros and cons. A lack of entertainment and amenities, having too many people or too few people, or problematic historical baggage are all valid things to criticize. You do not need to deny these issues to defend your home. Loving a place simply because it is yours is not irrational in the face of these challenges. If you are truly dedicated to a place, you should love it despite its flaws.
A “flyover state” may not have the infrastructure or things to do that more populated states have, but that is no reason to belittle it. Likewise, coastal states with big cities may have problems with high costs of living and crime, and these states should not be discounted either. Every place has its strengths and weaknesses.
While taking pride in your home is good, it should also be balanced by humility when dealing with others who love their homes just as much.
The scope of “home” allows for many levels to overlap. Your house or apartment is home. Your neighborhood is home. Your town or city is home. Your state is home. Your region is home. Your country is home. The world is home.
Wherever you can draw a line around a place and call it yours, you can love it.
So, how do you love your home?
The first thing to do is turn your attention to the particular. The closer circles of “home” should come first. Simply because there are less people to help, the more local a place the more it needs you.
Wherever possible, support the social and economic institutions nearer to you. Shop from small businesses owned and run by locals when you can. Try to read local news about events you can affect over far away events you can do nothing about. Know who your local and state officials are, and vote even in years when flashier offices like the presidency are not on the ballot.
When it comes to voting, college students who do not go to school near their hometown face an additional choice. Should they vote in their hometown, or where they are living during the school year?
There is no easy answer. It is up to every student to decide which place they are dedicated to as home, even if they are planning to find a new home after they graduate.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, find your place. Dedicate yourself to improving it, make it your own. Your home will always have one thing going for it nowhere else does: it is yours.
Marcus Bridgeman is the Opinion Editor at The Collegiate Commons. In his own columns, he focuses on issues of public policy and political philosophy. Bridgeman is a native Hoosier and a law student.