Make yourself your home

By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief

Around the same time I began my freshman year at Baylor, my parents divorced and sold my childhood home. So when my friends and peers returned to their families during break, I moved from house to house searching for that familiar feeling — the feeling of home.

I grew up in the suburbs of Anaheim Hills, Calif., less than half an hour away from Disneyland and about an hour from Los Angeles County. I lived on a street where everyone knew each other, every kid played together and almost all the parents got along. I had a relatively normal, albeit privileged, childhood.

During my senior year of high school, everything changed. After several medical scares in my family and my mother’s brain surgery, my family was left raw and vulnerable, although it was already susceptible to the perils of divorce.

By the time I was posing for my annual “first day of school” pictures in front of the front gate and packing up my car to travel to Texas, the home I loved was in the process of being sold.

I looked at the curbside where I broke my leg, the windowsill where my cat lazily overlooked the driveway and the red front door I struggled to open for what felt like the last time. It wasn’t, of course, but it was the last time I saw my childhood home look anything like my home.

When I visited my extended family and friends in Southern California, I would drive by the old house. I would help one of my parents finish packing up my whole life for separate destinations or I would sit in the backyard and cry where the roots of two great trees were ripped from the ground. No matter what I did, it was an empty and haunted shadow of what the home once was.

However, most of the time I would stay with my father, his girlfriend (now my stepmom) and her kids at their home. Or I would stay with my mother as she traveled the world as a flight attendant or now as she continues to go on adventures with her boyfriend.

But none of it is the same. Most of the time when I visit my parents, it is someone else’s home, not mine.

I have always struggled with my mental health, with depression, with anxiety. I have always struggled to be comfortable in my own skin. My first year of college amplified my concerns, and I was sent spiraling.

But then something happened. After hitting my own form of rock bottom, I remembered why I came to Baylor: to grow up, mature and become what I want to be.

I took care of my body like the foundation of a house. I learned how to take care of myself without relying on anyone else. I found a community that made me feel like I had a place in the grand scheme of things.

I returned to doing the things I once loved: reading, writing and exercising for myself. And I found new things to love: working at The Baylor Lariat, mindfulness meditation and taking time for self-care in bubble baths.

I even took one of the family cats with me to Waco my junior year. It was not the one who reigned over my childhood home, but a former stray, a lucky Penny. I forgot how much taking care of another life can help you take control of your own.

Although I never felt good in my own skin before, with nowhere else to run, I changed the way I felt about myself. Here are three concepts that helped me:

1. You cannot love someone else properly until you love yourself.

2. Until you feel comfortable in your own skin, you will never be comfortable anywhere.

3. You do yourself and everyone else a disservice when you act like something you are not.

Without a home, I had to find comfort and solace on my own. Without a house to call my own, I had to learn how to be at home with myself.