Originally published in the Albany Student Press, 12/05/05

It often takes leaving home for somewhere else to really understand the true meaning of these words. It does not mean that your heart is where your home is. It means that your home is where those who are most dear to you are. Where you feel most at ease, where you feel you belong.

This is not always your hometown. In fact, it usually is not.

My home is Albany. It has always been Albany. Ever since my internship at the Legislative Gazette in 2002 I have never felt at home anywhere else. Glens Falls, my hometown, never felt quite right. At Oswego, where I spent my undergraduate years, I never felt a connection. It is not surprising that I found love, a wonderful life and great friends in Albany. Something in the air here keeps me sane. It makes me feel welcome.

It feels like home.

While doing research for a paper for one of my classes, I took a road trip down to the Hudson Valley. I lived and worked in the New Paltz-Newburgh area for about a year between undergraduate and graduate school, and still have some friends there. It has been a long time since I’ve been back, and can say without regret that I do not miss it. Orange County never felt like home.

As I drove through Newburgh, passing some familiar haunts, a floodgate of good memories opened up. As much as Newburgh held far more bad memories than good in the ten months I spent working there, the memories were not all bad. I learned more about myself in those 10 months than I have in the rest of my 24 years. Sometimes you have to completely abandon your comfort zone to truly find it again.

I drove around some of the different towns – many that I was familiar with, some that I was not – and they all held a certain charm. While I was living there, I could not imagine why on earth anyone would stay there. Yet, Orange and Ulster counties are two of the fastest growing in New York for a reason. Of all the places I lived, the Hudson Valley felt the least like home. But home is an intensely personal place.

It was good to see some old friends, and as much as the Hudson Valley is no where that I would ever want to live again, it still intrigues me from an academic standpoint. Still, the second I got on the thruway and saw the signs for Albany, I felt an instant sense of comfort and relief. I was, once again, going home.

Albany will not be home to all of you. Many of you see your four years (give or take a few years) here as a stopping point. A means to an end. So many of the places we call home, even briefly, hold no more meaning than that to our lives. But, for every one of you that does not feel at home, there will be one of you that does. Often we cannot explain what draws us to certain places. Sometimes it’s aesthetic, sometimes it’s the people. Sometimes it is a feeling of comfort (or excitement) that washes over us.

And that is what they mean when they say home is where the heart is.