Subberwal: Don’t know what you’ve got till you’re gone (column) |

Subberwal: Don’t know what you’ve got till you’re gone (column)

Kaeli Subberwal
Ben Trollinger / |

Since college ended in June, I’ve been on the move, never staying in one place for more than two weeks. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to places like New York, Chicago and Yellowstone National Park along the way, but now, finally, I get to go back home.

Home has always been something of a nebulous concept for me. Since first grade, home has meant Summit, and, more specifically, a handful of regular hangouts along Frisco Main Street and Summit Boulevard, with occasional, more exciting ventures further afield. These places were where I was physically, but my mind was always elsewhere. I dreamed of big cities, of being at the center of the action. I thought there was somewhere I was meant to be, and my home was just somewhere I happened to exist at the moment.

Predictably, this, like everything else, changed when I went to college. Once I reached Chicago, I found myself telling anyone who would listen that I was from Colorado, talking about skiing much more than I ever did at home and even getting pumped up to see the Broncos in the Super Bowl — in spite of the fact that I’d never watched a football game all the way through before. Despite only having spent about 50 days in Summit since September, I feel more Coloradan than I ever have before.

I was used to the pang in my stomach of missing my parents and sister, but this was something new. Before, whenever I’d traveled with my family, it seemed like as long as we were together, it was as good as being home. Now, though, there are two different kinds of missing. One for the joy and camaraderie of my family, and the other for the crisp air, snow-capped mountains and familiar streets of Frisco.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why immigrants often form conclaves of fellow nationals when they arrive in a new country. In the face of the strangeness, the anonymity and the diversity of a new and busy environment, we want to assert our identities as loudly as we can, out of fear of being absorbed into the crowd. When I got to school, I hung my dad’s old Colorado license plate and a retro “Visit Denver” poster on my wall and wore my few articles of Colorado swag at every opportunity, as if to proclaim that I wouldn’t let the newness of the city rob me of the mountain heritage that I had been so quick to dismiss when I was living it.

But, as much as I miss Colorado, as much as I sometimes long for my fireplace and my dogs and the mountains when I’m sitting in a freezing lecture hall in Chicago, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Home means so much more to me now than it did a year ago. Throughout my childhood, Summit County was a stifling waiting room where I had to pace back and forth until I was allowed to move on to the main event. Now, though, it has ceased to be a place to do homework, practice piano, dream of the future and wait — it has become an ideal, and I like it better that way.

Now when I come home, I see the place that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the place that people sacrifice their East Coast and Texan careers to immigrate to, the place where my parents chose to raise a family. Instead of being frustrated by the eternal sameness of the small town, I am comforted by the fact that all the landmarks of my 15 years in Frisco stand exactly as they were. Instead of being bored by the endless talk of skiing, biking, running and climbing, I realize how unique and special it is that I grew up in a place where people place such a value on their own health and their connection with the outdoors. Instead of impatiently awaiting the future, I happily think back on the past.

Is it troubling that I prefer Summit County as an ideal and as a place to visit than as a place to live? Have I sacrificed some of my beloved local cred by moving to Chicago? Probably. But the truth is that Frisco is now my home more than it has ever been. Everyone needs an anchor, and everyone needs the chance to sail. I have been lucky enough to find both, and have never felt more at home.

Kaeli Subberwal graduated from Summit High School in 2015 and just finished her first year at the University of Chicago. She is a summer intern at the Summit Daily.

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