Editor’s Column: Home is Where the Heart Is



Mike LeClair

It’s easy to get trapped in the Colgate bubble. With basically everything in our lives going on within two square miles, it would be a miracle if we somehow managed not to become entirely blanketed in the Hamilton community. That is, assuming we were here year-round. Thankfully, we get enough breaks to remind us that there is a world outside of rural Upstate New York.

Well, maybe the rest of you do. Upstate is an area that I never quite get to leave. Every trip home is a quick two-hour jaunt, filled with cows, farms, dilapidated barns and that near-constant smell that reminds you that you’re in the middle of nowhere. Every time break rolls around, I get to make this monotonous trek home to Elmira, a wannabe city seven-and-a-half miles from the Pennsylvania border, destined to spend an extended period of time in the place I so desperately tried to escape when I graduated from high school.

And you know what? I love every second of it.

If there is one thing I have gained from being stuck inside the Colgate bubble, it has to be an appreciation for my city and the region I call home. With people coming to this campus from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, losing one’s home identity is an easy temptation. And to be quite honest, I lost that identity for a while upon arriv­ing here. Everything that reminded me of home was gone – the clothes, the attitude, the friends. It was a conscious effort. Who wants to be the kid at a school like this who seems like a townie?

But, two-and-a-half years into my Colgate journey, the hometown experiences that made me who I am – the relationships, the high school drama and, surprisingly enough, the education – well, there are few things more valuable in my life. Every that day I wake up and go to class, I’m proud to be from Elmira, a kid from a run-down town in Upstate who actually made it out and is doing something with his life.

Whenever I go home, for breaks like we just had, and the extended one coming up, it only serves as a reminder of how precious my upbringing was. The friends and con­nections I have made here are invaluable, to be sure, but nothing can come close to the values that shaped me as an Upstate New Yorker. While many people at this school might dread their return home, for me, it’s a blessing. Every trip back to downtrodden Elmira (seriously, check Urban Dictionary, Elmira’s top entry is perfectly accurate) is both a real­ity check and another opportunity to get in touch with my roots. For every crazy night at Colgate, there’s an equally wild one from home, with all the people with whom I grew up, who shaped one another into the individuals we have become, to which Colgate absolutely cannot compare.

Believe me, that is not a knock on Colgate or its people in any way. For the lucky few of us who managed to survive New York’s public education and make it to an elite aca­demic institution like Colgate, there is a rocky path that got us here. It was an adventure that has both prepared us for the real world and made us appreciate the middling town that raised us. Even if we neglected the value of home growing up, seeking to get out of there as soon as we could, the intrinsic value of home and the episodes associated with it can never be lost.

Too many times, we lose sight of home and the things that ground us, and I was dan­gerously close to doing so on numerous occasions. But thanks to Colgate, I have gained an amazing appreciation for Elmira, and it is impossible for me to forget the words of the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder: “Home is where the heart is.” And no matter where life may take me, my heart will forever be in Elmira, my Upstate home.