The other day, I heard this quote: “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

When I looked it up, one website said that Bobby (age 7) wrote this. I don’t know if I buy that this is Bobby’s original work, but either way, it just struck me as a kind of dumb and cheesy, Pinterest-y quote that your friend’s mom shares on Facebook and tags her children in, probably accompanied by some message about the true meaning of Christmas.

said chinchilla, queen Henny

said chinchilla, queen Henny

I dismissed it and moved on.

Change of topic: last week, on a whim, I agreed to petsit somebody’s chinchilla. The “why” here isn’t important–just take it at face value that I love strange animals and I’m a slave to my impulses.

Once I had the chinchilla in my possession, I asked a bunch of my friends if they wanted to come and check her out. My room was filled with almost 10 of my closest friends, playing with this bizarre creature. No one questioned or judged me for my odd decision to house a chinchilla for a month. Even one of my friends who doubted her love of rodents admitted that she was cute.

And then that quote came to mind again, but: love’s what’s in the room with you if you stop playing with a chinchilla and listen.

Stick with me here.

My friends all embraced–no, relished–the fact that their weird friend Genevieve decided to petsit a stranger’s exotic creature for several weeks. They checked in on me, texting me once we all parted ways for break to ask how the chinchilla’s doing. And that’s when I fully understood their unconditional love and support. They genuinely cared about this animal, and by extension, me.

It’s weird that a fluffball animal, of all things, catalyzed this epiphany. Duh, my friends love and care about me. I have awesome friends. But this semester I really realized how much my friends have become family and Hopkins my home.

image4 (1)

It’s weird–I’ve written before about feeling like a guest in your own home over breaks, but this time, it’s been magnified. I think it’s because I have my own apartment that has my own name on the lease, and that place is my home base. It has my art, my clothes, my belongings–everything that I use to nest and create a house for myself. It sounds simple, but it’s my apartment, it’s where I live; it’s my home.

image3 (1)But “home” is other things, too. I learned in my Intro to Sociology course this semester how people create homes in unfamiliar places. One of the mechanisms to cultivate familiarity is claiming a communal spot as your own. Think of regulars at coffee shops, or that old man you always see on the bench feeding the pigeons. People adopt places–public spaces–as their own, and that’s home in a place that isn’t actually yours. Mine is the brown chairs on Q-level of Brody. I’m there almost every day, feet up on the table, drinking tea. Having a second home in the library is sort of pathetic, but it’s familiar. It’s homey. I’m going to carve my initials into my favorite chair before graduation (shh).

Even when I’m not making an unspoken claim to a particular chair, Hopkins has become as familiar to me as my childhood home. I know to take an extra-high step on the steps by MSE because the lip in the bricks will trip me. I know to cut the corner of the path between Shriver and Malone to save an extra second. I know that the first door out of my apartment is push; the second, pull (and the left door is always locked).

image2 (1)But this familiarity is so much more than some kinesthetic awareness; it’s a comfort, a loving pat on the back. The smell of Gilman Hall is soothing. The magnolia trees by Mudd feel protective. It’s hard to explain–I feel at home in every twist of brick path, in every confident swipe of my J-card, in every second-nature, mindless walk to class. Being at home is easy, effortless, and being at Hopkins feels the same.

As a pre-frosh, I once naively believed that Hopkins would feel like a pit stop, like a place that I pulled over to during my road trip of life (oy). But it’s become so much more, more than I ever could have thought. I feel very fortunate to have such a loving place to call home, and so many people who make it feel so welcoming.

Eddie’s is my grocery story. Carma’s is my coffee shop. The brown leather chair closest to the blue study room in Brody is my work station. Room 108 is my home base. The Mason Hall student lounge is my hangout spot. My friends are my family. Hopkins is my home.

Bonus pic of me and Henny

Bonus pic of me and Henny