Defining ‘home’ is a much harder job than, say, changing a flat tire. For the flat tire, you know exactly what to do: loosen the lug nuts, lift the car off the ground, remove flat tire, and place the spare one. Et Voila, you’ve got yourself a brand new tire. But does knowing the fundamentals of a home have a four-step manual? Do we ever really know exactly what makes a place home?
Just as time changes everything, it also changes our perception of what the word home really means. Growing up, it was easy: home was where you rested your head at night, ate your mother’s mouthwatering food and quarreled with your pesky siblings.
That was until you fell in love. Suddenly, home was in their arms. It was the scent of their jumpers and the crinkles of their eyes when they laughed. Home was that midnight text, the morning one, and all the ones in between. You felt most at ease when you were with them, like a puzzle piece that finally found the perfect embrace of its neighbouring pieces, and you became the walking cliché of “home is where the heart is.” Once the butterflies in your stomach had settled into their own alcove of a home in your heart, so did you in your newfound serenity.
That is to say, until you fell out of love. Because just as time changes everything, it also changes your emotional state. So you wonder, if home is no longer their arms, and no longer that quaint pale yellow house on that old familiar street, what exactly is home? Given that neither you, nor I are the only ones who have questioned the idea of what home means, it is evident that the large majority of us feel, in one way or the other, slightly displaced in this world.
Which brings us to the third speculative definition of home: a constant, illusive illusion that never really fulfills the longing in your chest for a place to belong. Before you begin to lose faith in your purpose in this near-homeless existence, know that this definition is, in fact, the most optimistic of the three. Just as butterflies find a temporary home on the most beautiful flower until they find the next, even more beautiful one, so can you.
In our search for a permanent home, we often let an entirety of awe-inspiring temporary ones go to waste. Like the beautiful view of the sun rising over the river on the way to work, the quaint coffee shop around the corner, the sound of the busker’s magical eastern European melodies every Wednesday morning, or even the eclectic conversations we have with our best friends, sisters, mothers or fathers.
Taking the little details of life for granted is quite possibly imprinted in human nature, but what many of us fail to realise is the fact that all those little pleasures actually share a common denominator with the earlier perceptions of home in your mothers’ embrace and your lovers’ arms:
If you take all your temporary visualisations of a home and boil them down to the last grain of sugar, you will most certainly find a feeling of security and an engulfing sense of metaphorical warmth. In its essence, home is where you can close your eyes and not have a grain of worry or anxiety in your heart.
Finding a temporary home in your surroundings can thus bring about elation that is rare to find in this hectic modern life so many of us live. When you pin your sense of home on one thing, or one person, that is easily perishable and more or less physically constraining, you often find yourself stuck in a near-permanent sense of homesickness. When your lover is gone you feel your heart deflate, just as it does when you are away from your fairylights-lit room and the scent of your favourite candle.
For over 10 years, I had felt utterly homeless. I’d been yanked out of a comfortable, safe routine at the age of 10 and moved miles away into a completely different environment where the predominant language was one that I had only heard spoken by the cast of Friends on television. It wasn’t the big move or the different environment that threw me off, it was the lack of a sense of safety. I could not possibly find a home when I was unable to express the simplest of thoughts to my classmates.
Now, 12 years later, I’ve finally found my home in my morning routine of drinking a fresh cup of coffee from my French press and writing in my journal. My home traveled with me across three continents; on planes, trains, park benches and coffee shop tables. My home is in my habits; where is yours?