Love, Life Stories

I lost my childhood home while I was away for college

There are three places I call home, and my heart will always be split evenly between them.

Leaving for college is usually tough, especially if you decide to attend school in another state or country.

Although I was born in Colorado, most of my life was spent in central and southern Mexico where my dad worked. I thought of Mexico as home and had spent most of my formative years there. My friends were in Mexico, I graduated from high school in Mexico, I met my now husband in Mexico.

But, because I wanted to study writing and knew there were more opportunities in the English language, I headed across two countries to study in Burlington, Vermont. To say that moving from Mexico to Vermont was an adjustment is an understatement.

I was met with huge culture shock and winter nearly destroyed me.

The real shock, though, came when my mom called me during my sophomore year to tell me they were moving back to Colorado. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in Colorado off and on and I love the state, but Mexico holds a special place in my heart.

When my parents explained that they would be living in Colorado indefinitely, I felt like I was losing a part of myself.

Even though I had lived in Mexico for 12 years, I didn’t have Mexican citizenship or even residency. In fact, my senior year of high school I had been in Mexico on a tourist visa because of paperwork problems. When I did go to college, I lost any real ties to being ‘from Mexico’. And yet, I still told my friends that what where I was from.

With my parents’ move, I felt like I didn’t have any ties to the country I’d lived in almost my entire life. I felt like I didn’t have any right to call myself Mexican or to talk about how much I missed Mexican food, and culture, and celebrations. But the real problem came that winter when I was trying to buy tickets for the break. My boyfriend was in Mexico, several of my friends were there, but my family was not.

Plane tickets are incredibly expensive, so traveling from Vermont to Colorado and Mexico didn’t seem possible. That first Christmas I stayed in the United States, but the problem came up every single break. Which country did I want to visit more? Which choice would hurt less?

I felt like my heart was constantly torn in two.

Several times I took the bullet and bought plane tickets for a few weeks of almost constant travel. To save money I would fly into Mexico City, then take an eight-hour bus ride south to get to Oaxaca. My flights from Mexico to Colorado often involved an overnight layover. I was able to see everyone, but for very little time.

When I look back at it now, I think I survived college with a mix of friendships in Vermont and long phone calls to friends elsewhere. At one point during my busiest college months, I found myself scheduling out phone calls. I needed to talk to my mom, my sister, these two friends, my boyfriend.

My college roommate became one of my closest friends, and I had a special appreciation for her because she understood my torn allegiances and made sure I had time and space for phone calls. By the end of our four years together, she could usually guess who I was talking to based on context or language, and sometimes she would ask for gossip I had learned over the phone call.

She, along with the rest of my friends kept me distracted when the loneliness and homesickness felt unbearable. They let me talk about Mexico when I needed to and were always more than happy to be my guests when I needed to cook a Mexican meal.

Ultimately, I’m grateful for the now three places I call home. Having my parents back in Colorado has rekindled my love for the mountains and the bright blue sky, and since I married my high school sweetheart, I have new ties to Mexico and a valid reason to visit as often as my wallet will allow. I’ll probably keep saying that I’m from Mexico, but now I might also specify that I went to college in Vermont and was born in Colorado.

After all, what’s wrong with calling three places home?