Coming back from winter break, especially after spending ten days in my other country, Panama, is difficult. Although I was born and raised in the United States, there is something special about going to another country I call home, to the country my mother called home for 25 years.

When I stepped off of the tiny little plane of my connecting flight from Houston to Lubbock, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment that lingered. I wasn’t dressed for the weather, nor had I thought to brace myself for the dryness I would feel upon landing. More than anything, I hadn’t anticipated feeling any level of discontent associated with coming home.

After all, Lubbock is currently my true home. Regardless of how fulfilled I feel when I go back to Panama, I have to acknowledge my entire life is here in Texas. My mom, my dogs, my job, my school, my friends, my independence, everything. Lubbock is operationally my home, so why was I filled with so much sadness when I got back?

More than likely, these feelings derive from contrasting desks, notebooks, lectures and work trainings with the rolling hills and mountains, breathtaking beaches, lush rainforest-like greenery, great food and quality time with my sweet family. Unfortunately, this has made coming back to Lubbock and transitioning back into the semester slightly more complicated and filled with just a little more dread.  

It’s impossible not to view the difference in climate as almost symbolic. In Panama, there is humid warmth that embraces you like an old friend as soon as you step outside, a soft tropical breeze that caresses your face – here there is cold, dryness and freezing wind that leaves you wanting to run back in the moment you step outside.

Considering my close family members excluding my mother are all in Panama, the actual feelings that are provoked by my trips there much reflect the climate of the country: warmth, fuzziness, relaxation.

The opposite is true here at home. Here in Lubbock, I’ve grown accustomed to the frigid wind that aggressively whips my hair around my face and steals any receipt I forget to tuck away into my shopping bags. There is a certain harshness, an aridness to the climate here that accurately reflects the immense stress I feel being away from my family, working and studying at ungodly hours of the night. I’ve grown used to this harshness and the stress I associate it with over the years I’ve been here, but somehow it feels harder coming back to these feelings this time.

When I compare the new home I’ve created here in Lubbock, thousands of miles away from the people I love the most, it’s inevitable I will feel some level of disappointment and longing for my other home. Comparing a sacred place filled with quality family time with a place where I have to work incredibly hard and push myself beyond what I previously considered my limits is unfair. One of my homes is associated with happiness and relaxation while the other is associated with work, school and maybe a tiny bit of loneliness.

This comparison will never be fair. Despite the initial disappointment I felt upon my return to this new home, it’s important not to pit it against my family home. Nothing will ever be the same as coming home to my grandmother’s cooking or the feeling of breathing in fresh air when my uncles and I set off for the mountains or the way every stranger feels like a friend.

Of course this is not the same as Lubbock, but that doesn’t mean this small city hasn’t been a true home to me as well. I’ve had the opportunity to study at an amazing university, to get a good education, to get invaluable work experience, to meet life-long friends and to begin discovering who I truly am as a young adult.

I’ve been endeared to even the seemingly annoying things about Lubbock because of these experiences. The way the city floods if it rains a little too much, the way dust collects in every inch of my house (and the way I’m constantly fighting against it), the way I have to work hard to prove myself and develop my future career: none of it seems quite so bad when I think about how much I’ve gotten out of my time here in Lubbock.

No, this new home I’ve created in Lubbock is not quite the same as my family home, nor will it ever be, but it’s a different kind of home. Something unique, something that is only created by being away from family, something that blossoms from independence and working a little too hard towards my future.

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