Home Is Where You Are
It’s been almost five years since I’ve felt completely “home” anywhere. There’s always this piece inside of me that’s stuck standing on the doormat, afraid to feel safe here.
Yes, there are locks on my door. And no, I’m not scared of someone breaking and entering. It’s not that kind of fear.
It’s deeper, kind of existential fear of keeping my feet still, of planting roots where I’m standing.
I’ve moved cities five times since I graduated from college. And despite living in the same apartment in LA for nearly two and a half of those years, the photos my girlfriend and I framed never made their way up onto the walls. Lingering in the back of our minds, was always a question of when (not if) we would leave.
And like we assumed, we eventually walked away. We packed up our things, threw the big stuff in storage, and moved temporarily across the country again.
This kind of psychological homelessness that I’m describing is a choice.
It’s much less about the physical comforts and way more about the psychological ones. It’s about experiencing some mental blockage that never allows you to be fully where you are.
This is an important distinction.
You can have all of the most luxurious things — an ocean view, a hot tub, and a California King, and still, feel a sense of deep unrest.
While the opposite is true, too. You can feel home anywhere you want to. Within nature. On the streets of a big city. At a remote log cabin. Or even, in the sky.
Side note: This is why there has been a recent movement to start labeling people living on the streets as houseless instead of homeless. While the former is about an economic and material disparity, the word ‘homeless’ actually holds an emotional connotation that often inspires pity.
Now, the reason anyone might feel a sense of existential unrest or psychological homelessness is fairly obvious.
There’s a deep fear in both transience and commitment that has made me devise a strategy to defend against it. Hedging my bets. Moving constantly. Letting decisions linger.
This erratic behavior is usually the result of being burned, hurt, or left behind. And never having fully dealt with it. Which, in my case, is all true.
Yet, I’ve done a lot of the deep internal work to get to the root. And I’m not convinced these are the reasons for this particular type of psychological unrest. Of my inability to feel home anywhere.
I think it goes a few layers deeper.
There’s something in me that’s wanted to be both there and here.
Which requires really analyzing what ‘home’ means to me. Or what it means at all.
I always thought that home was a place where my family gathered. Where meals were shared, walls were painted, and laughs were had. It was looking out the window and seeing my dad grilling on the back deck. Hearing the sound of a ball game on in the other room. Smelling pancakes and bacon on a Sunday morning. Chasing my youngest brother up the stairs. Sitting on the floor watching my mom do her makeup. Decking the whole house out in red and green.
Home was a space that facilitated sights, sounds, and smells of my life. It was a vehicle for bringing every person I loved together under one roof.
Nothing more, nothing less.
But when my mom died, the concept of ‘home’ completely evaporated. It was pretty clear that my definition was fragile — that it required her to keep it alive. And that I was incapable of re-creating that ‘feeling’ for myself.
What had once been a ‘home’ now just felt like a ‘house.’ I was Cinderella, stuck with a pumpkin for digs.
Which meant, ironically enough, when the house I grew up in burnt down a few years ago, it didn’t hit me that hard. In part, because I was twenty-three and living out on my own by then, but also because it hadn’t felt like home anymore anyway (despite still having my mom’s fingerprints all over it).
My dad rebuilt another house on that same property a few months later. And yesterday, he and my brothers moved out of that place. For good.
The experience has been emotionally charged. While I’m not sure any of us ever really felt home in that space, as we did in Ward House 1.0, there’s a degree of grief that’s swept in.
Grief, not necessarily for the physical place, but for everything that piece of property has stood for. It’s the final step in ‘letting go’ of our mom, of embarking to find a new sense of ‘home’ in the world without her.
My brothers left the cul-de-sac that we all learned to ride our bikes on. The basketball court where I used to whip their butts (my height was an unfair advantage until it wasn’t). They left the last property that my mom ever lived on. The paths to the lake and to the baseball field in town.
Our dog is even buried in the backyard there. Someone (not me) probably had their first beer there.
They’re physically walking away from childhood, into adulthood.
My brother Sam is just about to graduate college, and Jackson’s about to leave high school. With all this uncertainty flying towards them about the future, their feeling of home has been stripped.
There’s no net anymore. Nothing to fall back on. No home base.
They are real adults now, with the world in front of them. With a multitude of decisions to make. With the responsibility for whatever comes next.
It’s the same way I felt five years ago. So much uncertainty. So much heartache. So much fear.
Unsure of where to plant my feet.
Which is ultimately why I’m writing this article. To them. And to anyone else out there struggling with this concept of ‘home.’
To remind all of us that ‘home’ isn’t four walls, but a feeling that we choose. A feeling I have struggled to choose, over and over again. That I believe we will all struggle to choose from time to time.
We are all going to go through stuff in life that pierces holes through our sense of ‘home’ sometimes. Divorces. Deaths. House fires. Fights. Big moves. Graduations. Heartbreaks.
These things can make us feel broken and alone. They dismantle our ability to feel safe and cared for. They shake our reality to the core.
Leaving us feeling spiritually and psychologically homeless.
But home can be here, no matter where you are. No matter what you are going through. No matter who is around.
My wildest dream for any of us is that we find a sense of ‘home’ in ourselves that can’t be dismantled by the craziest shit happening in the outside world. That no matter what possessions or people we lose, we still can come back to center. That we can find a way to feel whole no matter how much money we have in the bank or where we are on the planet.
Being at ‘home’ means that there’s nowhere to run off to. That you don’t need to have one foot on the doormat. It means you have already arrived just where you need to be (and that you have a key).
So, my dear brothers, I hope you always know:
Wherever you are, wherever you go.
You are my home.
You are not just the home I was biologically assigned.
You are the home that I choose.
Because when I’m with you, there’s nowhere to be. Nothing to run off to. No fear in my heart. And no urgency to escape.
Wherever you are, wherever you go.
You are my home.