Home is a word we use a lot this time of year. So many are going “home for the Holidays” or missing the home they can’t spend the Holidays at. Home is something universal yet personal: for each one of us it looks, smells, sounds, tastes, and feels distinctly different.
For me, the concept of home is a complicated one. Home has meant my hometown and the house my family has lived in since I was five years old. It has also meant my university, where I stepped into adulthood and really began developing my own understanding of the world. And also the apartment I lived in while teaching in China — the first place I lived alone as a young adult.
But it is also something intangible and unbound by physical space. I have found it with friends and family, and curled up on my bed with my cat. I have found it in internet communities built on shared interests and passions, and in deep conversations with people whose native language is different from mine. In hotel rooms, familiar and warm after a full day of sightseeing; in favorite songs playing through earphones on a long train ride; in a well-loved sweater. I’ve even found it in a cup of coffee or milk tea.
Home can be certain people, yes, but even more that that, it is security, comfort, and familiarity. And, thankfully, it doesn’t have to be stationary. Just as comforting as returning to the same location is having constants that travel with me as I change locations. Sometimes these act as anchors, helping me maintain a connection with my past or my physical home. Other times they act as foundations on which to build new relationships — because it’s much easier to connect with people over shared hobbies, beliefs, or passions.
It’s quite easy, especially after having lived in two very different cultures, for me to feel out-of-place. Finding these constants, however, provides me with a space in which to belong — to understand and be understood. They create almost a culture of their own, complete with history, customs (habits), and sometimes even language. They may be adaptable to new stages of my life, or they may remain static and firm amidst the changes around me. Some of them have been with me nearly as long as I can remember, while others have only been significant in my life for a few years. Whatever the case, they have proven to be invaluable every time I find myself stepping into a new uncertainty.
For the first time in about five years, I am “home for the Holidays.” I’ll be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family in my childhood house, immersed in all the American festivities that surround this time of year, and I’m very much looking forward to it. But, if I’m honest, a part of me is still missing my “home” in China. And another part is excited to find out what “home” will look like next year. It’s a blessing that home can evolve as we do, that it doesn’t have to be tied down to a particular location. I believe that humans are meant for change and growth, so it makes sense that we need something that can be both consistent in that change and accommodating of that growth. Whatever new horizons may appear before us all in the next decade of our existence, my hope is that we can all find constants to traverse them with us.
What does “home” mean for you? Is it more stationary, or more fluid? What constants do you hold onto when you face changes in your life?
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