If home isn’t where the heart is, it is where one’s sense of belonging exists. Granted, there are exceptions to not every rule but most. Some people, from the girl who resents her parents for forcing her small-town residence to the male who doesn’t get along with his father to the starving musician needing an escape to Hollywood, may hate their homes and will do everything in their power to get away.
And so they become vagabonds, travelers on a lost highway, searching for answers. They get a thrill from adventure and find respite in the constant shuffle, never knowing what’s around the next bend. But I question even their motives. They may be on the run from something. Or maybe they’re equally running toward something: an answer, a sense of belonging, a place where they’ll fit in, someplace they’re proud to call home.
I write this timely post because, today, at the age of 32, I made an offer on a house, and it was accepted. Being single, I put more stock into my decision than most, for I have very little on which to fall back. Every bit of the financing echoed all the louder in my life because its weight is heavier. While buying a house is filled with much anxiety and worry, I wonder how not having a place of my own has affected my pride and, therefore, my happiness level.
For the past 14 months, I have been living with my parents, after 13 years of independence. It was a humbling experience and a minor blow to my pride. Before I go any further, I should preface this idea with the following: My parents are incredible.
Their hospitality and sacrifice of letting me invade their empty nest have enabled me to get back on my feet. They have facilitated my financial success, helping me save enough to afford the opportunity of a house. If they weren’t such wonderful people, I would not have lived here for more than a year; rather, I would’ve rented a place, just to get out. I truly love them and, in a way, will miss the daily interaction with people — people who love me back — once I move.
But, all in all, there is a reason we don’t live at home forever. We’re supposed to spread our wings and fly. We’re meant to go out and explore, experiencing life’s ups and downs so we can mature into adults. If we do not, our development is slowed, our perspective one sided, and our sense of identity smothered.
At 32 years old, I long for adventure, but I also want a place to come back to when that adventure gets stale or ends. I want a place to call home because it comforts. It’s my little nook in the vast universe. It’s my tiny kingdom. It’s that place where I belong, when the world may not always accept me for who I am.
As a family, we have created a network, a community. We’re all within driving distance. This is where we live, work, and play. Ask any of us to point to a map and identify home, and we’ll all point to the same general vicinity. It’s where we eagerly go at the end of a long day or a long trip alike. As a family, we share a home in that sense. But the physical concept of “home” is something we do not.
I write about home in the abstract sense, those feelings of being, belonging, and acceptance. It’s a combination of family and community, and I feel that. According to Merriam-Webster, those feelings stem from home as “the social unit formed by a family living together”; or “a familiar or usual setting,” a “congenial environment,” also “the focus of one’s domestic attention.” What I don’t feel is home in the physical sense.
Home is certainly twofold, for there is also the physical construct — the façade and its interior makeup — which ultimately becomes an extension of our personalities, like a canvas on which to paint. Personal expression is critical for our identities to form, making your home and mine extensions of who we are.
There is a reason you picked out that modern couch versus the rustic furniture. You liked that pastel paint color, while someone else may opt for sterile grays and whites. You prefer abstract décor because of your lifestyle choices. We’re all different, and our physical homes follow suit.
Home is where you feel attachment. Ask the child of divorced parents where he or she calls home: mommy’s or daddy’s house? Probably wherever that sense of attachment is stronger, most likely where the majority of the time is spent. Again, the physical sense of home is at play. I know that I’m always welcome here, in my parents’ house. But it is theirs; they have made it theirs. It says a lot about their collective personality. I’m not attached to it, other than the warm ‘n fuzzy feelings of Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas Eves spent as a family here.
While necessary, moving in with my parents has affected my ability to be me. That is not meant to be offensive to my family. It just comes with being a guest 24/7. My possessions are trapped in cardboard boxes, stored away, far from sight. I use my parents’ toaster, their towels, their bed sheets. With my possessions stored away, so, too, has my sense of self.
In all this, I wondered, “Where do I belong?” I belong here, in this abstract community we have created. But when family lives together, even those we love most can limit our identities from truly playing out. We all have our own ways, our idiosyncrasies. In a home, those quirks that make us us have space to be expressed. Living as a guest limits that.
This hasn’t put my happiness into a free fall, don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame this situation. But I think there is something to be said for how a sense of home, or a lack thereof, can snowball into waning happiness. Maybe you just moved to a new city for a job. Or perhaps your family moved away. With that, your concept of home may be in flux, leaving you confused, missing the old days, and feeling down.
When I move in a few months, I don’t expect my unhappiness to go away. Will my happiness level be on the uptick? Maybe. But I expect that, once I’m settled, I will start to feel like myself again, like an individual. I will begin unpacking boxes and, with each one, rediscover my style, my way of life. With that, I will likely stir up who I am, that since-forgotten principle that is so important to my ongoing development, pride, and happiness.