Being in college is a simulation of being a nomad. It’s four years of having my belongings constantly spread out in multiple places and of moving those belongings every summer and every fall and sometimes more.
Having all of my things so all over the place makes me a little bit itchy and uncomfortable. I feel like I don’t quite have it together, but I really want to have it together. I want to have all of the things that belong to me in one place and I want to hang the pictures and set up everything just how I like it and then I don’t want to have to move around or re-settle ever again.
But that’s just not realistic. I’m 21 years old. My nomadic years are for sure not yet over, which is mostly okay, although a little scary, but also exciting. And it has me wondering: where is my home base? If everything goes so terribly wrong, where do I go?
The obvious answer is “where the heart is” – as in, “home is where the heart is” – but I think my heart is like a horcrux, spread out all over, and I mostly don’t mind that.
I know that this world is not my home – it’s not a place to get comfortable, to put up my feet and watch things pass me by. But when all I know is this life and this earth, it’s so hard to remember and to know that something greater and more ultimate is coming for my eternity. So although this world isn’t where I’ll be forever, I don’t think it’s bad to set up camp here. I think it’s okay to have a physical place I can go for respite and to charge me up for the difficulties of living here. I just don’t know where or what that place is.
Here’s one thing I know: home isn’t a feeling. You can’t get into your car after a really long and not great day and drive to a feeling. But home doesn’t have to always be a house – it could be a place. So there are too many options.
Here are the places I’ve ever called home, in chronological order –
1. My parents’ home – we’ve lived here since 2001. It holds memories of learning to clean a toilet and learning to have an okay attitude about it, looking for a secret passageway, pretending to be blind out of curiosity, practicing piano (and then forgetting all of it), camping in the backyard, spending hours and hours with my parents so patiently trying to help me make sense of Algebra 1. It’s my whole childhood and all of my growing up and now, my retreat from college during the year and from Camp during the summer.
2. My childhood friends’ homes – I know I’m at home at these places because I’m expected to help unload the dishwasher when I’m there and I know where they keep the ibuprofen and spare key if I need them. In these homes, we wiggled and giggled, we painted brothers’ toenails, we played MonkeyBall, we tried in so many different ways to trick our parents into letting us play longer, we fell asleep watching movies in the living room after long days of playing. These places – others’ homes – fostered my social development and taught me how to be a friend.
3. Camp – I didn’t start working Camp until I was 17, but it did and still does stretch me in good, hard ways. Camp is the toughest and best thing I’ve done and continue to do. It’s challenge, peace, growth, and even though it’s hard and scary, it’s comfort. Camp has shown me over and over again that terrifying things will turn out okay and that hiding doesn’t make your problems go away (it just makes them more difficult to manage when you come out of hiding).
What else is there to say?
4. College apartment (Madreland) – I’ve been lucky to live in the same apartment for three years of college! Which mostly just means that when I move out I have some major cleaning to do. It’s guided me into adulthood well (I think). The fire alarm has gone off a lot of times (only once actually due to smoke!), and I’ve made about seven bajillion batches of cookies in this kitchen.
Many desserts were made here.
5. Wherever my books are – see here. They are the most tangible and personal and mobile things that are mine. My room is currently covered in books – the bookshelf is bursting with them, the windowsill is lined with them, there are piles next to the bookshelf, next to the windowsill, under the desk, in the closet, next to the trash can, next to the bed, and next to the dresser. The book to floor space ratio is an interesting one. My books are specific to me – where my books are, I am, and I live. They have stayed faithful to me during this nomadic part of life, and I love them for it.
And so my problem is not the worst problem, but it’s still kind of a problem – that I have maybe too many homes. I get nervous to call a place home because I don’t want to overuse the term or get too attached to a place that I know I can’t stay in forever, but I don’t want to never call a place home or be comfortable somewhere because I’m holding out.
Life would be simpler if I could be where I am and not worry about where I belong or what constitutes a home, but that’s not how I work. I like definitions and clarity and certainty. And so, the question remains: what is home? Can anything be home? Should just anything be worthy of being called a home?
Here’s what I’ve decided: home is fluid, and home is a choice. I can have multiple homes. All of the homes I’ve had so far have housed (no pun intended!) me during formative times, and that’s why I claim them as horcruxes: places my heart will be forever. As I’m moving along and around in the world, I’ll have more formative times, and I’ll have more places that keep me safe and warm during these times, and I can call those places home, too. I’ll just add them to the list.
My heart is so sentimental and so reflective. I will die with a list of locations that I wouldn’t have made it through life the same without. It will be a long list, and I think I like that.