During this celebratory time of year as we gather with family, as we welcome friends back, or travel to be with those we love, home can hold special meaning. For many us here at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes, home is a place to be comfortable, a setting to be oneself, a space to come as you are. This holiday season, we hope you enjoy time at home. Below, our own Adrienne Allen ’04, shares her story of home.
Winter’s faint sun is setting on 2017. I gleefully welcomed our first snowfall this December and with it, the countdown to Christmas and New Year festivities. What’s special about this holiday season, though, is that it concludes my first full year back in my hometown, Alexandria, Virginia. It’s one thing to sing, “There’s no place like home for the holidays…” and it’s another thing entirely to shift the emphasis, to sing, “There’s no place like home…”. What does home mean to me, and why is it so special to live in Alexandria all year and not just for a brief holiday hustle?
From the age of 12, I defined myself by my aspiration to create television shows. I earned a middle school English department prize at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School because I was the youngest writer to submit a TV pilot to a national competition. My essay about a journal where I drafted my work helped grant me admission to 10 competitive colleges, including my first choice and alma mater, Brown University. Then, in the spring of 2011, I was accepted into the Harvard of film schools, the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. This admission drew me 3000mi cross-country, to Los Angeles. Yes, my goal to be an executive producer took me far: far along a career path that few navigate, far from the city, climate, and culture where I was born and raised.
In some ways, the distance was good: I learned to look after myself and build a dwelling and social circle of my own. However, as the climb toward media leadership grew slipperier and rockier, I became more keenly aware of my anonymous status as a Student ID Number, as an Employee ID Number, as a conglomeration of calculable achievements and assets. I felt less and less like a unique individual with a history and a name.
When my climb could go no higher, five years after moving to LA, I flew back to Alexandria in November 2016. While relieved to regroup with my nuclear family, I also felt self-conscious: could I be a hero here, though I had not touched the heights I aspired to reach? To my surprise, I was embraced by many familiar faces: from event organizers in my neighborhood to former teachers who would soon inspire me to join their ranks. Yes, they all reminded me, you are more than a number; you are a name and a hero all by yourself. I did not have to scale a craggy Hollywood mountain to be important or empower others around me. In Alexandria – so I’m learning – I am already somebody.
With my first year back home coming to an end, I celebrate the discovery of the hometown hero already within me.