April 21, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Toby Wilkinson  

The beginning of college (and all of college, for that matter) can be an exciting time of new places, friends, and experiences. However, the overload of new stimuli can also be confusing and disorienting.

It certainly was for me.

All throughout the first 18 years of my life, as I learned and grew, I always had some unchanging aspects to keep me grounded, to bring me back down to Earth when I needed it. The most important one for me was the sense of connection to my home in New Hampshire, a mutual understanding between me and the sun-dappled woods, rugged mountains, and winding dirt roads that filled the landscape of my childhood. 

When I arrived at Colorado College, all of that was gone for the first time in my life. The mountains were still there, but they weren’t my mountains, the dense green New England forests were replaced by a sparser landscape of shrubs and conifers, and at night I fell asleep to the sounds of train horns and sirens, instead of crickets and frogs.

Currently the first 14 of my top tracks this month on Spotify, consist of all 14 songs on singer/songwriter Noah Kahan’s 2022 breakout album “Stick Season,” just as has been the case every month since January.

Kahan wrote this album in his childhood home of Vermont during the COVID-19 pandemic. The album tells a coming-of-age story with its tales of pain and learning of growing up, struggles with anxiety, depression, and alcoholism, and the emotional connection with a childhood home. While Kahan does say that the album is “for New England,” these are themes that can hit home for many people, regardless of where they come from. 

Hometowns can be a complicated facet of your life. They can encompass a lot of pain and complicated emotions tied up in one location or a tight knit community. But they also can remind you of the joys and freedom of childhood, and at the end of the day, play a major role in who you are today.

As Kahan said in an interview with CBS, “you have to take stock of where you come from and who you are, and why that place made you who you are, in order to understand yourself.” 

The cultural and emotional shock of arriving in a new place can create revelations, or questions, about who you are. Sometimes this can be a positive experience, other times not so much. When the latter is the case, it is important to remember how you became the person you are today. You don’t actually need to be at home for it to serve that purpose, but a little reminder of home can be helpful.

The chorus of “Homesick,” the twelfth track on the album includes the lyrics “I’m mean because I grew up in New England” referencing the stereotypical ill-tempered attitude of New Englanders. But the first time I heard the song, I thought the line went “I’m me because I grew up in New England,” and sometimes I wish that was how the song went. When questioning who I am, it’s comforting to be reminded that whoever that person is, I know where it all started, and I know that place will always be there.

And for me, “Stick Season” has been that reminder. 

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