I am, for all intents and purposes, an orphan. And in being an orphan, home has always been a heavy concept for me. Growing up, home was never a place of refuge, a haven. Scarcely a place of safety and love; it was a place I ran from, avoided, and escaped as often as I could.
Since those days, life has taken me to different places, both geographically and emotionally. Home has meant many things to me throughout the years; an address, a physical structure, relationships. With the last few remaining tethers from my old life falling away, I have been meditating on what home means to me now.
One of the only times in my adult life that a home meant a house was living with my first adult relationship, long-term boyfriend. I remember the moment I made the decision to break up with him.
I had just come home from dinner with a friend, working through my thoughts to leave. This was a tortured time for me. I was so unsure I was making the right decision. He was the first boyfriend I had ever lived with. In our apartment was where I believed I had found the mythical home that I had been searching for since I was a child. It was warm and safe and ours.
I remember coming home and thinking “I am going to leave him.” Sitting on our couch there was a distinct feeling that swiftly hit me; that I was also, in turn, leaving the home that I had created there. This realization doubled my heartbreak. It took me a long time to get over losing what I had found in the address we shared together.
I spent some time after that breakup attempting to find my place in my hometown city. In the absence of family and parents, a lot of my transformative events happened in what I felt was in connection with this city. I knew its streets, its hidden spots. For a while the city felt like my home. But I wanted more. I wanted challenges, to discover new streets and new hidden spots. To learn another place inside and out.
I took the plunge and moved to New York City by myself. I lived with Craigslist roommates. First, in Bushwick with Latin skater boys and then in Bed Stuy with a Jewish lawyer girl. Albeit, a very transitional time in my life, in NYC I found it difficult to make the anonymous city feel personal to me. Apartment to apartment, roommate to roommate, I was never able to find that elusive home I was chasing. I set my sights on the West Coast, and a year and a half ago, I landed in San Diego.
This past summer a friend fell ill and was put on life support. I made an abrupt trip back to my hometown. It had been some time since I had been back, and surely it had been close to a decade since seeing some of the faces I saw during that quick visit. Faces of people I had once called friends, people whom at one point defined me. The stark differences in the paths we had chosen were laid out in front of me. Many still suffered from the same cyclical thinking and denial, having changed very little.
Coming back to this place for such a heartbreaking reason was difficult. It was a tragic and emotionally charged couple of days. When I left, it felt like an end to a chapter. The city no longer felt like a place that was mine. I no longer knew it, and it no longer knew me. Some of the people I had spent time with during that visit seemed almost unrecognizable as friends.
As I flew back to California, I mourned what I thought would always, in some way, be my home. Many times in our lives, growth moves us away from some things but towards others. That was how this resonated with me. I was clearing a space in me. To reevaluate, again, what home meant.
Recently a friend from my teenage years came to visit me in my new home in Southern California. This was a friend of 16+ years. In my hopefulness, I thought that this visit would feel just like home, just like I had remembered. She reminded me of where I had come from.
That visit did not end well, which is to say it ended terribly. People, like geographical places, change and shift. When those people shift so dramatically, does it serve us to force it? To maintain relationships, where there may be years of history, but there is minimal connection, is it still worth pursuing?
I didn’t consider that these years and miles and experiences away from one another had changed me. Our two pieces didn’t fit together anymore. We came from the same place and that is where the likeness ends. We were dissimilar and time had magnified that fact.
Releasing these people and places I had identified as being my home has forced me to redefine many elements of my life. In redefining myself and my story, I have also altered many of my inherent ideas. My ideas of success and friendship, and of course home, have shifted greatly.
It has been a journey to find myself here, both emotionally and geographically. To authentically be heard, supported, loved, and protected. Those are the qualities I want in my home. And after years of searching for these things externally, I have finally understood that what I was looking for, this home, to a great extent, is inside of me. Creating a space and honoring it has become the answer to what I have been searching for. The places and relationships are secondary to what I need to find within myself.
I have recently moved in with my boyfriend, more specifically into his bachelor pad he had been refining over the last couple of years. As I am coming to peace with my meaning of home, the transition into building a space together seems to be happening at the right time.
Out here in California, thousands of miles away from the people, places and things I once defined as my home, I am building new roots. Choosing to define myself, my story and my home on my own terms and not from external channels is a simple, yet revolutionary concept. I am still figuring it out but I am gratefully ushering in this next phase.
“I spent my time, watching
The spaces that have grown between us
And I cut my mind on second best
Oh the scars that come with the greenness
And I gave my eyes to the boredom
Still the seabed wouldn’t let me in
And I try my best to embrace the darkness
In which I swim
Now walking back, down this mountain
The strength of a turnin’ tide
Oh the wind so soft, and my skin
Yeah the sun so hot upon my side
Oh lookin’ out at this happiness
I searched for between the sheets
Oh feelin’ blind, I realize
All I was searchin’ for, was me
Oh oh-oh, all I was searchin’ for was me”
–“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard