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On Finding a Home in the Bronx

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Fordham University

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On Finding a Home in the Bronx

Jessica Mannino

5.14.17

I remember playfully mocking my freshman year roommate for referring to the Bronx as “home.” Being the sarcastic person that I am, I demanded she explain in detail the sensation of “home” she felt upon entering our 2x4 place of residence. As far as I was concerned, the bottom bunk in South was where I slept for a year of my life. It was a place that was consistently hotboxed with the odor of last night’s meal veiled in a cloud of Febreze. It felt unnatural to romanticize living with a rug that amassed a year’s worth of silent soy sauce droppings upon each roll of sushi’s journey to my mouth.

I guess our room was as charming as a converted triple could be. We spent way too much money at Party City decorating for holidays as though we were expecting company. We kept the cozy string lights up year round. We spoke often, which I hear is a key ingredient in the makings of a healthy home.

While I’m sure she had her own set of struggles, my roommate embraced her new surroundings in a way that I teased, yet secretly envied. There I was, desperate to meet up with any familiar face for lunch. To clarify - "desperate," as in I had lunch with almost every one of my high school teachers that year. My phone record from 2013 would show a million 2-minute outgoing calls to my mom, probably asking her what I wanted for dinner. I felt oddly comforted when the girl across the hall chose to stay in for the night. It was all really dramatic and honestly kind of hysterical.

As a child, I knew a trip to the nurse’s office could get me out of anything. While my parents are certainly not pushovers, they are extremely empathetic to the thought of my sister and I ever feeling uncomfortable. So, when life in South got too unbearable, I knew I could escape on a ferry ride home and be warmly welcomed. There would be a cheese spread and everything. God, it was awful.

For me, college was a really long battle of resisting that easy way out. The battle became easier, of course; a side-effect of time and muscle memory. I learned to challenge myself in systematic ways: I started a publication and learned to welcome rather than fear criticism. I embraced the title “floater” until I found the right friend group. Rather than crying when my roommate moved out on me, I turned her bed into a sitting area. I resisted becoming a victim of my own circumstance. I started to find that, at the very least, being uncomfortable yields a funny story. Heck, I once even peed myself on campus. What a rush! Though that made me uncomfortable for different reasons.

I laughed at myself until, two years late but miraculously on time, I met the one person I needed to make this place feel like home. I think that may really be all it takes. In an uncomfortable place, in an uncomfortable situation, you may just need a home base: someone to make you feel like your invitation is implied. The rest gets easier from there. It of course helps if he's handsome.

Whether a symptom or a cause of this revelation, I’ve come to love this place. I now even (unironically) call it my home. When I am feeling ambitious enough to contort my body through a window, I sit on my fire escape and bleed from the resulting battle scar in the name of feeling cool. I flaunt pictures of Eddie’s like a proud parent. I pick out an outfit in advance of the club fair every year because it is important to me. I walk the 3 minute distance to my boyfriend’s house between class, overindulging in the most convenient setup the world could have ever afforded us. I love that nightlife comes with no extraneous Uber charge, and that there is an ice cream truck within walking distance any given sunny day. I love that people are impressed by the amount of steps I brave to reach my door. I found out that Modern delivers and am disgustingly proud to have kept it my secret all these years. I would do anything to have one more go-around, but I realize that some things in life were meant to be done once. Kind of like NSO training.

Graduation has imparted a sense of urgency on all of us, so the question remains: how much stock should we invest in our last moments here? We’ll drink frantically at Tinkers, watch a thousand sunsets from the football field...maybe even attend a game. Are those things still going on? Some of us will even pay real money to enter the caf. We are taking the consequent emotional and economic punches as they come (though local business is thriving!). These last final weeks are painfully uncomfortable, mostly because there’s no “right way” to end college. I remind myself of that everyday.

Anyways, that’s my advice. Pictures of my freshman year tell their own story, but I know in my heart how much of a shitshow it all was (Hey! And now you do too!). It all works out if you're in it for the long run. Whatever you do, resist the pressure of subscribing exclusively to one thing: a friend group, an activity, a deli. You’ll always be limiting yourself. Worse, you’ll forfeit the endless surprises that come at the cost of being a little uncomfortable.

Go forth! Be uncomfortable! If you feel like you may pee yourself, for Chrissake, find a bathroom!