Redefining What Home Means for Me

When I heard the word home, I used to think of a physical place. A large house in the suburbs, with big windows in the front and two cars parked outside. Where I would wake up every morning, leave for a few hours to go to school, and return to every night, just to repeat the same process, day in and day out. My home was where my family lived, where I could always return for comfort and love. Over the past two years however, one of my biggest struggles has been trying to define what home means for me. I haven't had a real bedroom in years now, all of my belongings get packed up every five to six months and moved to a new room. No longer am I living in the room with the three windows in the front of the house, with pictures of the Eiffel Tower and a signed Taylor Swift poster up on the wall. That room has been gone for awhile, taken over with my family's belongings and my bed and desk moved out and into my sister's room. When I return to where my family lives, I sleep on the couch. So is that home for me? I haven't spent more than two weeks at a time there since I graduated high school, so not really.

Last year alone, I collectively spent over a month and a half in hotels due to traveling. I spent two months sleeping in a hammock under the stars at a summer camp, only choosing to sleep in a covered cabin (still without windows or doors) when it looked like it might rain. I spent a few months in a dorm room, moved to Spain and lived with an entirely new "family" for four months. Then I returned back, with my suitcases full of belongings, to yet another dorm room. It seemed as if all the places I lived, as soon as I started to feel settled, I'd have to move again. And I know, once school ends this quarter, I'll sleep on the couch for a few weeks, and go right back to the outdoor hammock. Only to practically repeat the cycle again and again. It's been awhile since I've been able to say "I'm going home" without second guessing why I said that, instead of just saying "I'm going back to my room," or "back to my apartment."

But with all these travels and all these different places I've lived in, I've come to realize something. As cheesy as "home is where the heart is," it's truer and more pertinent to me right now than ever before. Home isn't a physical space like I thought of when I was little. Home is a sense of belonging and community. A place where you know you can be yourself, and still feel loved and cared for. And when I was little, I thought of my house as home because it was where my family got together, and ate together, and fought together, but most importantly cared together.

When I left though, I found a new home, a home filled with friends, many of whom are experiencing the same confusions over the idea of home. With these friends, we laugh and cry together. We complain about tests and talk about guys together. We spend too much money on boba tea and love good Mexican food. And with each place I've been this year, right now in my dorm room, in that apartment in Spain, in the summer camp I worked at, I found a group of similar friends. While in Spain, these friends and I traveled throughout Europe, went to bars, and spent countless afternoons on the beach. We all were far from home, and longing for a family and that's exactly what we became for each other. Enough so, that I considered it a home. The same thing happened while working at a summer camp, I spent two months with the same people, where we stressed over our jobs, but at the end of the day were always laughing and singing with each other. I felt like I could truly be myself with them, and that's why I considered it home. 

It's a struggle for everyone, but once you find your "home," you'll know it. You will know the feeling of relief, that you can always find someone who will support you and love you unconditionally. And it might take awhile, my home away from my family took months to form at the university, but only a week or two when I was in Spain. Just know, that even if you feel like you don't belong, you do and there is somewhere for everyone.

“Home is not where you are from,

it is where you belong.

Some of us travel the whole world to find it.

Others, find it in a person.”

― Beau Taplin, Buried Light