Illustration by Selena Qian
Almost half of the “awesome” moments teenagers experience occur when they are with friends, according to the “Moments of Awesomeness” campaign from stageoflife.com, a website dedicated to guiding people through every stage of their lives. For junior Alisha Wang and sophomore Angela He, these moments occur every day.
“We go everywhere together,” Wang said. “We see each other before school, we carpool to school, and then we have ballet after school, too, sometimes, so I see her there. We just see each other all the time.”
He said she and Wang have been friends since they were seven.
“We took ice skating lessons from the same coach, so that kind of brought us together, and we had to take Chinese school on the weekends together too, so we just kind of grew closer to each other,” He said.
But, the connection is not just between the two best friends. They also share a deep connection with each other’s families.
“(The Wang family) is just like another family to me,” He said. “I feel really connected to them.”
Wang and He
Photo by Sarah Liu
Seidensticker and Birhiray
Sophomores Maya Birhiray and Charlotte Seidensticker share a similar familial friendship.
“I consider Charlotte’s family to be like my family completely, and her mom has always been like, ‘You’re a guest the first two times you come over, and then you’re family, so just get your own stuff,’” Birhiray said.
Seidensticker agreed that their families are strongly connected.
“When I’m texting Maya, I’ll just be like, ‘Mom says hi.’ My mom is ‘Mama S.’ to her and then her mother, to me, is ‘Mama B.’ Sometimes I’ll just stand in her house and talk to her mother for 20 minutes while Maya’s going to do something,” Seidensticker said.
Both sets of friends said they think of their friend’s house as a home away from home.
“Just randomly, (He) will just text me or call me so I can open the door, or sometimes she won’t even text me; she just walks in,” Wang said. “And when I go over to her house, I don’t knock either, I just say, ‘Come out,’ or just walk in. It feels like home.”
According to Focus on the Family, an organization dedicated to helping parents raise their children, it is healthy for teenagers to have places besides their own houses where they can spend time. This helps in a developmental process called “separation and individuation,” in which teenagers define themselves less based on their families and begin to explore who they are personally.
Kate Kneifel, student services coordinator and social worker, agreed that having a second home is beneficial for students.
“I think it would be the hope for everyone to (have a home away from home),” Kneifel said. “I think as many places that we feel comfortable and welcomed and accepted and that we belong somewhere is beneficial to our mental health and just our enjoyment of life.”
Wang and He said they often hang out at each other’s houses.
“Sometimes (we hang out for) two hours; sometimes I’ll just spend the entire weekend at (Wang’s house),” He said. “We mostly just talk about stuff and then we watch movies together.”
Wang added that they also stay at each other’s houses when their parents are out of town and often go on family vacations together.
For Birhiray and Seidensticker, hangouts are similarly casual.
“A lot of the time we’ll just get together and hang out and talk and watch movies,” Seidensticker said. “And I enjoy doing makeup a lot, and so I constantly do Maya’s makeup, and she probably hates it, but that’s a common thing to do. We also like to bake.”
Photo by Selena Qian
Kneifel said having fun activities to do is one of several factors that enhance the feeling of a place as a home away from home.
“(A place) might be (a home away from home) because we feel really comfortable, we’re not worried about making a mess or doing the wrong thing, we feel known, so someone’s talking to us or happy to see us or we’re noticed, and there’s something enjoyable going on,” Kneifel said. “So maybe at that place there’s always good food, or that’s where you go to play video games, and you have a great time. But I think it has to do with inclusiveness and feeling welcome and known and comfortable.”
Birhiray agreed that comfort and recognition are important in a home away from home.
“I think it’s really important that there are people there that you love or that you care about, and that you don’t really have to think too hard when you’re there. You’re just being you. If you’re tired, you take a nap; if you’re hungry, you eat. It’s one of those things where you’re not like, ‘Oh, can I touch this? I don’t know if I can touch this because I don’t know,’” Birhiray said.
Seidensticker said she agreed with Birhiray’s definition, but added that memories in a place are an additional factor to a home away from home.
“I think it’s all about comfort and also the memories that you make there that you’re surrounded with, because, for me and Maya as well, we also consider Disney our home and I think it’s kind of the memories and the happiness that kind of comes with that,” Seidensticker said.
He and Wang said they agree that a home away from home is somewhere a person feels comfortable and close with those around her. Wang said her friendship with He has lasted a long time and she looks forward to spending many more years together.
“We go everywhere together,” Wang said. “When we were little, we used to coordinate outfits; that’s how close we were. If I bought something, she would buy it too, or if she got something, I would get it too. And then we would always share food. When we went (ice) skating in the summer—we had summer camp—she would bring a big lunch, and I’d bring a big lunch and we’d just combine and have a feast. I couldn’t imagine life without Angela and her family.”
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