“A Place Called Home” by Anna Matsokina

A warm breeze, the smell of the ocean, soft flakey sand, orange-red skies at sunset, the power to make this world my home. The freedom to choose where I would live, what things I would do, and with whom I would spend time. This is what I call homecoming. It is coming back to what makes me feel warm inside and out.

When I joined the Army, my only family and friends were in Russia and Belarus. Skyping my mom and two close friends nurtured me no matter where I was. Homecoming was never about people for me. It took me time to make friends in Kansas where I was stationed as a logistics specialist. We were all at a time in our lives when we were passing through; no one was planning to settle in Kansas. I felt deeply isolated and had no meaningful relationships of the sort that are typical of the place we call home. So I filled my time with evening courses and exercise.

When my time in the Army was coming to an end, a sense of intoxicating freedom ran through my entire body, from head to toe. The power to make my dreams a reality was within me. The Army had deprived me of the ability to make my own choices and secluded me from friends for over three years. I was now eager to change the direction of my life. I yearned for a warm breeze, the smell of the ocean, soft flakey sand, bright orange-red skies at sunset. After I got out of the Army, I moved to California without ever having been or even knowing anyone there. For the first time I had the freedom to make anything I wanted a reality and did not have any geographical constraints. Since then, I have explored California and traveled around the world. I have completed my undergraduate education in engineering. I have tried different hobbies and have learned new skills. I also have made more friends who are scattered all over the world.

As I sit on the shore at Alameda Beach, I realize the transition out of the Army was coming back home to myself. I am running at my own pace and on my own time. I am still working on the things that are within my control and on building my future home where friends and family are not so distant. As a warm breeze pushes my hair, the sand sifts through my toes, and I smell the salty air of the ocean, I shade my eyes from orange-red skies at sunset. The Bay Area is a nourishing place where I can dream my homecoming into reality.

Anna Matsokina is currently starting a graduate program in Civil/Systems Engineering at UC Berkeley. She served in the US Army stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas from 2012 to 2015, during which she was an enlisted logistician at S4 shops (brigade and battalion).