I’ve moved quite a bit during my life and I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about what a home is and if I even have one.
It’s probably common for children who grow up between two houses to have a unique understanding of what home is. When houses rotate frequently, when you are an adult who never lives in the same dwelling for more than a year or two, then the word “home” starts to seem like an idea made for other people. Add in shifting cities over the length of countries every half decade and home is now a list of place you used to be.
I think home is a difficult concept in more ways than one. It’s difficult in the same way that when I refer to apartments / flats as “houses” people look at me with confusion. Difficult in the same way that I can be standing inside the place where I live and eat and sleep and still feel like I’m supposed to be somewhere else. Maybe even difficult in the same way that I wonder how short a time I will remain in a place that I feel happy in. This confusion has persisted in me throughout my entire life and clouds even the most basic definition of home.
Maybe like hell, home is other people. In that case I feel at once without one, having moved away consistently from everyone I have ever know and with one, having chosen every person in my life carefully. Having made a conscious editing, of this “home”, to leave my family behind, leave bad jobs behind, leave those who destroyed my world behind. The flip side of the coin is also having to leave behind my lifelines, and all my friends. If home is other people, I have done a poor job cultivating a home since I’ve probably lost more friends than I’ve kept up with in all my constant motion.
At least for now I’m feeling pretty generous about the idea of home closer to the concept of a place you might belong at a certain time. It gives you the ability to carry the definition around in the backpack of your heart, your body. To hop from home to home like a chameleon without worry that you’ve left something behind.
Most of the time I feel without a home. Without an anchor or a thought or a base or a place to return to. I think that might be part of home that baffles me the most, that you are supposed to return to a place and call it “home”. If things go poorly here, wherever here that may be home now but may not be home later, where would I even go? That’s what makes me question home the most.
There were legitimate reasons to have left all those other “homes” and equal or sometimes even overwhelming reasons not to return. Like a hermit crab, those shells of homes no longer fit. I outgrew them in some way. Or maybe, they even outgrew me. Either way, there is no way to contort myself back in to those “homes”. So in this way, I think home is a scary concept. The reality is that this “home” is the only one I have now. I am from another place and I have lived in other places and once they were “home” but they’re not anymore.
Not that anyone can return to their home. Everything is too much in flux for that. Returning to where you were brought up or where you spent time before you lived in the place you do now would not be returning home. It would only cause nostalgia and confusion when memory and reality collide. As a person who hasn’t been permitted to really return to the places I left which could have been called home, I couldn’t say what those feelings are exactly but at least the larger areas around a home are bewilderingly different enough to make “home” feel like just another a word we have to describe some random feelings we hope everyone else has.
I don’t think I will ever really have a “home”. I don’t know if this is because I have never really been able to pin down the idea of home or because I have never lived somewhere that I felt was going to be a place I never left from. Maybe even the problem is that I never let myself get 100% invested in this idea of home.
Even after all these years it’s surprising how long you stay in once place or how soon you leave. Double for who sticks around in your life and who fades away. Who makes your new home feel like your old home and which things and feelings and people bring recognition, comfort, and warmth to a new place. Which ones repel.
Even if it’s just the four walls that you return to at the end of the night, home is more like an ethereal construct to me.
Because despite everything, I always want to return home, but never can.