It’s interesting how what seems like an easy question, can reveal so much about someone. Asking where home is can also mean: Where are you from? Where were you born, raised and educated? Where do you pay your taxes? What place goes deepest inside you? It’s something I take to heart in getting to know others. Or rather, know myself in the world.
I remember asking this on a first date, his answer was so unscripted that it led up to 4 (or more) hours of an interesting conversation. By definition of place, he was born in the UK, raised in Boston, lived in many countries in between, and was in San Francisco for work. By affiliation, however, neither place felt like home to him. Most people just assume home meant their address, but he naturally opened up how home was purely contextual for him. We shared how “home” brought up feelings of (mis)identity, our paths of finding our “niche” among social circles, our family life, the places we’ve seen and lived, and our communities in general. Years later, I still remember that conversation as if it were yesterday.
As it is now, home is more of a feeling rather than a place.
I’m back at the place I was born and grew up in, but it doesn’t feel the same. It used to be a small town with a mountainous playground, a cheerful people and places to explore, now it’s an even smaller polluted town filled with traffic and grumpy people. (LOL…I realize I sound like an old grump saying “back in my day….” but you get what I mean about change) I’m very grateful for childhood friends and family of course, thanks to them, home is as comforting as can be.
Of course I miss my American home. I miss Seattle, San Francisco and the communities I’ve set up for myself that make it home. I miss the freedom and diversity of life there. I miss the sense of ownership I worked hard for. I miss the rewards of the work hard play hard lifestyle. Home meant making the most of routine. Home meant overcoming those challenges. Home meant fun.
But I also miss the feeling of home “out there”. Foreign as it is, there’s a sense of belonging travelling to a different place instills. That feeling of knowing who you are, where you are meant to be, or simply making the most of not knowing when you could go back to that same time and place. It can be so naturally ours. Being out there can even be the best home there is.
So then….where is home? I found this TED talk by Pico Iyer and got my answer.
“Take pieces of many places and piece them together into a stained glass whole. Home is a work in progress of constantly adding improvements. For more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul. Home would have to be whatever you carried inside you” – Pico Iyer
TED talk on Where is Home (click for video)
Thanks to his short talk, I’ve been reminded that home isn’t just the place where you’re born, or where you are. It’s not just where you sleep, it’s the place where we stand. It’s the place where we become ourselves. ‘We find this place by stepping out of our devices, making the most of our present and constantly creating a home to keep going back to.
Home is simply the pieces and places that create where we belong.