By Kevin Paley
I recall being thirteen years old when I visited my oldest cousin in college. I couldn’t wait to hear stories about what crazy college life is like. In Portland, Connecticut, where very little changes and everyone is white and middle-class, the prospect of college was the golden opportunity to leave small-town life behind. However, I recall being shocked at how serious my cousin Jillian, a sophomore at Syracuse University, was about homesickness. At the time, I figured that girls were just more sensitive to that kind of stuff than guys.
Fast-forward to being seventeen and applying for colleges. Aiming for a degree in Theatre, I auditioned for four east coast schools that would keep me close to home and one out in the other worldly west – the University of Southern California. I had no intention of actually going to school in Los Angeles but figured that my application would give my family a good scare and give me a good fantasy to get through the last years of high school.
As luck would have it, USC offered me enough financial aid to make rejecting this school impossible. Life got real; I shipped out in August of 2008 to see what LA had to offer.
That’s when I realized that my cousin wasn’t just playing. Sure, in my first few months at USC, I was lucky enough to participate in the musicals Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, and Chicago. I also had the pleasure of overworking myself into mononucleosis, tonsillitis, and bronchitis. Needless to say, the winter break of my freshman year was spent couch-ridden at my parents’ house.
Getting a tonsillectomy on the day after Christmas was no holiday but, laying there on my parents’ couch, surrounded by my friends, family, and dog, I realized that this was exactly the way I needed to spend my winter break. I spent so much of my adolescent life stereotypically rejecting the strong bond I felt to my family, my hometown, and my upbringing, but why? They’re my home; they are a part of me. When it came time to once again leave Portland, I had a new attitude. I returned to USC and the spring semester eternally grateful for how well I was raised (so well it seems that even dining hall access couldn’t deter the healthy lifestyle my parents ingrained into my being). I returned to Los Angeles no longer feeling like I was escaping the grip of myopic Connecticut life but, rather, embarking on a mission for myself and for those who helped shape me into who I am. My mission? To learn as much as possible about the theatre and bring pride to Portland.
The unfortunate part of this rekindling of inspiration is that the homesickness never changed; I still really miss my family and hometown but, at least now I cherish the moments of missing my friends and family back home. I am grateful to have the strong relationships that make saying goodbye for extended periods of time difficult. Someone, somewhere, once said that distance makes the heart grow fonder; I couldn’t agree more.
I am now twenty-one and a senior in college. I have lived in Los Angeles for three years and even in London for four months. As I prepare to graduate and choose a new city of residence, it is comforting to know that no matter where I end up, my family will always be waiting for my return in tiny little Portland, Connecticut.
Featured image by Yoav Hornung on Unsplash
Kevin Paley is an undergraduate senior in the School of Dramatic Arts and Thornton School of Music at USC. Hailing from Connecticut, Kevin grew up playing sports and wandering through the woods with his dog until he was twelve; that’s when he discovered a passion for acting. Since then, he has grown to become an avid writer, actor, and director. He recently returned from studying at the British American Drama Academy; while abroad, Kevin was fortunate enough to visit Spain, Holland, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Budapest, Belgium, and the Czech Republic.