Losing Home, Finding Yourself (by Jana Hugo)

Hello readers of Bread Poet Society, my name is Jana and I’m currently in my 2nd year at UCT, studying a BA majoring in Film and Gender studies. When I’m not doing readings for my course or taking a nap, I like to write in my journal, avoid pigeons (Satan’s gift to mankind) or whisper sweet nothings to my beloved plants!! Here is a lil piece about home and uni and growing up. CIAO!

Leaving home after high school is weird. And also, SCARY AF. When you return to your hometown or parent’s house, it never quite feels the same again. And one day you wake up and realize that your childhood is gone (probably at the same time you realize that you’re a little (very) late for your 10AM class).

This realization knocked the air out of my lungs mid last year. I had just finished my first set of university exams and all I wanted to do was go back home – to my real home – and to curl up under thick blankets and lie in front of the fireplace. I wanted to be five again -listening to my parents chatter as they prepared lunch – Bob Dylan blaring in the background. I wanted my childhood back, but it was gone. And it kind of freaking hurt.

When you leave for uni, you pack your life up into boxes and it kind of just stays that way for the next 5 years. You never quite settle into your res room. You never quite get used to the mechanical hum of the washing machines at 12AM, or the drunken laughter that echoes up from the courtyard in through your open window. Lecture halls are cold and intimidating. Strangers at the bus stop avoid conversation by looking down at their phones. It’s kind of lonely in the city. And no one ever really tells you that.  But if there’s one thing that living in the city teaches you, it’s that loneliness is a gift. It teaches you a lot of things about yourself.

As time goes by, you realize that you’ve made new homes for yourself. It makes the thought of growing up a little bit easier. And the best part about it – sharing this experience with friends (¯We’re all in this togeeeether¯). You learn that home can be people too. Home can be a place, a feeling, a memory. And as *cringe* as it sounds, you realize that it’s the little moments that make you feel at home.

Although some days home feels so far away, you start to wonder whether you dreamed the whole thing up, the makeshift families that are born out of post-lecture conversations or while head banging in the club – make it all worth it.

It’s about the memories made on the nights without sleep, spent under the Christmas lights at Waiting Room or on your best friend’s carpet. It’s about feeling at home as you walk the streets of Claremont at 3AM in search of chicken nuggets (obviously) after one too many shots of tequila. It’s dressing up for First Thursdays, fooling yourself into thinking you’ll actually make it to a gallery – falling for nachos and mojitos at Buena Vista Social Café instead. It’s dancing with friends at Disa Park as the city lights glow in the distance through the massive windows. It’s feeling young, and indestructible and really, really confused. ABOUT LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

Being a student means trying every trick in the book to try and dodge the “So what are you doing after your studies” question asked by Aunt Susan at the family dinner. Let’s be real, you’re only there for the food.  And you’re a little tired of eating two minute noodles and chicken strips. You’re really confused about your future and why you’re even taking a course called “Astronomy and Its Role in the 21st Century” (Okay, that isn’t a real course, but you get what I mean).

Being a student is really weird. I mean you have to do your own washing, and fill in important documents (SCARY) and you have to drag yourself out of bed in the mornings when all you REALLY want to do Is drag yourself into the nearest coffee shop and ask “how much to fill this bucket with espresso?”.

Studying in Cape Town is a bit of a weird experience too, because the city is so big and it takes so long to familiarize yourself with the new spaces that you’re wandering around in. You’re on your own and you’re making a new life for yourself. Or at least you’re trying to. You claim a seat in the corner of your favourite coffee shop – the one with the cute waiter. You make new routines – you memorize the cracks in the pavement at the bus stop you frequent every morning as the sky blooms a perfect “Millenial Pink” (that’s a thing now). But all in all, being a student means finding home in yourself. And as hard as that is sometimes, I feel like it’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever had to learn.



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