Home. There’s no place like it. A place to relax, recharge and restore your body and soul at the end of a long day. A place to keep the items you hold sacred. A concept so embedded in Western culture that one of the first questions we usually ask someone is, “Where are you from?”
Yet as our world has evolved and generational shifts have occurred, defining home has become more difficult.
For some, it’s the physical structure where belongings are housed and beds are slept in. For others, it’s a feeling they get when visiting a certain geographical area or being around a group of people. And for others, it’s the physical things they possess, that they carry with them on their life’s journey.
And finally, if you’re as complicated on the inside as I feel most days, it’s a combination of all of the above.
Growing up, I lived in a standard three-bedroom ranch home on a lovely, yet unremarkable, street in small town USA. It had all the comforts I could want and a great family environment. Lucky, am I? Heck yes. Then 18 years into my life, as predictable as can be, I left to go to college with the idea that I would never feel as at home and comfortable as I did on St. Paul Drive.
I thought to leave that structure, that street and that town was the end of feeling like I belonged. These new people in this new place would never understand me. They would never give me the same feeling of belonging as I had in my grade school and high school years.
Well, as you can probably imagine, my 18-year-old self had no idea what I was talking about.
I did find a place that I belonged, and at the same time, the world I left kept turning. So while the house, the town and the street are still there, it’s not the same. Instead of feeling at home when I visit, I am left with a sense of nostalgia, a sense of melancholy and the realization I am not a child anymore and never will be.
And let me tell you, in the words of the kids these days — that thought leaves me shook!
Turns out, the feeling of not belonging somewhere is common and a feeling we have all experienced at some point.
While doing research for an article on homelessness, Mark Matousek, author of “Writing to Awaken: A journey of truth, transformation and self-discovery,” discovered that the idea of homelessness is more a state of mind than previously thought and usually occurs during times of transition or struggle, leaving us with feelings of dislocation or abandonment, even when we have a roof over our heads.
So what do you do when the home you knew is not home anymore?
For me, my home has become wherever I am. I have created a home inside me. One that pulls from the best of each place I’ve been. It takes the security and love of my childhood home, combines it with the lifelong friends and memories from college days, adds in a dash of independence gained from living on my own, throws in a sprinkle of excitement from getting married and tops it off with the Cabbage Patch kid that has been with me since I was five years old.
But my story is just one.
Millions of others, probably many of you reading this story, still live in or near their childhood home. Others of you reading this story have no interest in looking back. Instead, you’ve made a home where you are now. You have found things, people and places that give you the same sense of comfort that others get from a physical place.
Research has shown having a sense of home in some form, whether it’s a person, a place or a thing, is important. It’s part of our innate need as humans to belong and to have a connection.
So as you journey through life, take time to stop and think about what home means to you. Doing so can open your eyes to a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value. As Verlyn Klinkenborg said in the Smithsonian magazine article “The Definition of Home,” home is “a place so profoundly familiar you don’t even have to notice it.”