So this week I’ve had the opportunity to come home and visit Clarksville, take a little break from Disney and really absorb all of the ways that my life in Orlando is different from my life in Clarksville. So, here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Surprises are great, except when they aren’t.

One of the best parts of planning a trip home (at least in my opinion) is getting to see everyone, and sometimes it’s great to show up unannounced and surprise everyone. Sometimes, it causes you to stand outside the front doors of The All State office for 30 minutes, wondering why no one is inside, before realizing that they are all at graduation. Not that I’ve experienced it personally or anything…

Seriously though, surprises are great, but it’s always nice to tell one person, just to make sure that people will be there when you show up.

Entertainment in Clarksville isn’t actually all that bad.

Not going to lie, I figured that coming home would cause me to feel kind of bored. I mean, if I were off right now in Orlando, I’d probably be at the Magic Kingdom, but I haven’t been hard-pressed to find things to do at all. From dinner dates, to hanging out on campus, to climbing at Queen’s Bluff – it has been so much easier to find fun things to do than I’d anticipated, which is kind of a relief. It also leads into the next thing I’ve learned.

Sometimes it’s nice to slow down.

In a big city like Orlando, things are always moving. It’s a big city with a lot of things to do, and even though I’ve been living there for four months, there are still major things I haven’t done.

For example, I still haven’t made it over to Universal Studios.

But here at home, there’s a calm, easy feeling around. I don’t have to run from one activity to the next. It’s nice to take those extra seconds and watch the way the trees sway in the wind, or the way the clouds roll across the sky. It’s very peaceful.

 Animals make everything better.

The hardest part thing to come to terms with in the Disney College Program is that you will have very few interactions with domestic animals (unless you go to a pet shelter). Yes, there are cats that inhabit the complexes, but most of them are very skittish, and apartment policies forbid any kind of pet. Not even fish are allowed.

Coming from a household with many, many animals around, this was a big change. Though I’ve only been home for a few days, I’ve had plenty of animal bonding time. This has been a much needed break from the animal-free environment I’ve been living in.

Family time = the best time.

With the holidays right around the corner, my family decided to hold our Christmas early this year. So everyone came over and we ate, played games, exchanged presents and enjoyed being together again. It was great to have people around who’ve been there since the beginning. People who have stuck around for all of the mood swings, awkward teenage year, triumphs and failures. There are some things that even the best of friends can’t recreate, and sometimes a little family time is needed.

Plus, who else are you supposed to take super fun family photos with?

Home is not necessarily where you grew up.

They always say “home is where the heart is,” but I never really understood the phrase until I came back to visit.

My visit here has been great so far, but that’s what it is. A visit.

Yes, I know that my program is ending soon and that I’ll be coming home to finish school, but when I look around the streets I grew up on, I realize that this is no longer my home. My home is next to Little Lake Bryan, where it’s still 70+ degrees and we have a “hurricane squad.”

I still love this town, Clarksville, and I love APSU, but (for now at least) I believe that my home is in Orlando.