A few months ago, I posted on Twitter about my longing for home and asking others to define what home is to them. That tweet resonated with so many as it spawned a discussion that lasted for several days as well as I received private messages from folks sharing their thoughts.
Like most things, I filed it away and only brought it out periodically to mull over it. Give it shape and form ending, inevitably, in frustration.
I’m ready to give it form. What has taken me years of thinking was unraveled, dissected, and made clear in the span of two therapy sessions (+ the two weeks in between sessions).
Home is my peace.
Let’s breakdown that down. Home, contrary to how I originally thought, isn’t a physical place. I have felt “at home” in places that I only resided in temporarily (i.e. less than 3 years). But once I untethered it from a physical place, then what is it??
In order to understand what home is, I had to understand what it isn’t. Home, growing up, was tumultuous. There were bright spots and even fun but it was fraught with tension and abuse. I distinctly remember standing in the driveway of my childhood home wishing for the day I would leave it. I was 15. When I went away to college and experienced that first taste of freedom, it was a new sensation filled with hope. As I began to live on my own, it was a space where I did what I wanted and when I wanted, from impromptu solo dance parties, trying (and failing at) a new recipe, and having friends over to catch up.
So what is home? Home was, first and foremost, mine. Something I create. Something that reflects who I am. Even when I had roommates, I needed to have the capacity to retreat to a space that belonged to me. I became it’s gatekeeper. A veritable “abandon all hope ye who enter here” a la Dante’s Inferno.
My domain. My peace. My sanctuary.
But to preserve it, I have to protect it from the things, people, and circumstances, that seek to compromise it, a holdover from childhood trauma.
Two examples come to mind. First, in my current home, I have only invited a handful of people over. These are people I genuinely like. There is conversation and laughter over food, drink, or both. Conversely, there are people who haven’t seen it and will likely never set foot in it. Why? Because I don’t like the energy they put out in the world. They bring me down and put me in a negative headspace.
Secondly, since home is partly an environment, I am more attuned to neighbors. Anyone who follows me longer than a month or two will, undoubtedly, see me lament my current situation. Why? I am living in close proximity to highly negative, toxic people. That seeps in. That compromises. That disturbs the peace. If I hear neighbors arguing all the time, with little concern that others can hear them, that sets me on edge. I internalize it whether I mean to or not. I start snapping at folks and my fuse is short.
As someone who is a self-described sojourner, it is freeing to name “the thing.” To call it what it is. But also opens me up to be less afraid that I will never find “home.” Home isn’t a particular locale. I carry home with me (along with my cat Thaddeus and my belongings). I create it every time I leave and settle somewhere. I enjoy it with others who bring a measure of peace, love, and fun with them. In this created space, we have fun for as long as we can while I’m there as long as I will be.
Then I will say my goodbyes, pack it up, and create it again. Even as I write this I realize I’m in a cycle of birth and death, end and beginning, creation and destruction. And there’s a beauty inherent in that. Maybe I’ll explore that bit at a later date. Who knows.
I feel settled in this realization.