If you’ve felt the subtle yet unshakeable pull towards or away from a place, you’ve felt the tug of home.
Home is a fluid concept. It’s more feeling, than place. It doesn’t come to you complete. It needs to be discovered and built over a life. Even a childhood house, or the house where you’ve always lived, isn’t home. Home is a sense of the right place, of being connected to life in a meaningful way. It’s something we build with others and must defend with our whole hearts. It’s not “out there,” it’s a way of life.
I moved too often as a child to connect house and home. Family members moved in and out of my life just as often. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I always felt loved and supported. But when I look back, I can’t ignore how often I sought the comfort of my best friend’s house. I didn’t know it then, but to this day my friend’s given me the most long-lasting sense of home. This is how I first came to know home as a feeling, not a place.
In my twenties, I was trying on so many versions of myself that I didn’t even feel at home in my own skin. It took at least those ten years for my sense of identity to settle around the person I am today. This is how I learned that home is also a feeling of knowing who you are and knowing the elements that support you in being the best version of yourself. The people who really know you and inspire you, the lifestyle that sustains you - these are the pillars of home.
Three years ago I quit a job that I knew couldn’t be a home for me. Since then, I’ve drifted from place to place. I’ve studied yoga, meditation, philosophy - all in search of building a sustainable lifestyle that will keep me healthy, at peace, inspired, waking up each day with a sense that I’m in the right place doing the right thing. I’ve spent three years in search of home.
Reflecting on my journey, this is what I’ve learned. Home is not where you are from, or grew up, or live now. It may not be your family. It’s not the environment, the weather, the mountains, or the beach. It’s a place you build, inside your heart and together with others. It’s a way of life that supports you in connection to the world in the right way. You know it when you feel it because you are feeling a place that knows you. It gives you what you need.
Take stock of your life and sort what belongs in your home from what doesn’t. Who gives you what you need? Who leaves you feeling drained? Which activities lift you up and which bring you down? What are you doing and who are you with when you feel most yourself?
Give your energy to those that honor it and give you the same. Put your life into spaces that can hold and nourish it. Once you’ve built a little bit of home, defend it with everything you got. Make the boundaries around your home impenetrable. Turn down the job, the housemate, the family obligation even, if it threatens your home. You are too important.
These boundaries may even come between you and your family, as they have for me. Accepting and enforcing this is difficult and painful, but allowing them to disrupt your home will be even more painful. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It only means you have different needs and chosen lifestyles. Seeing you at home is what they want too, and it's the only way you’ll be able to fully express your love for them.
Protect your home. Discover its essential elements, build them into your life and protect it with your whole heart. Commit yourself to the practices that help you do this, like meditation, therapy, service, a healthy lifestyle and a good amount of fun. Commit yourself to the people that share your sense of home. Then watch it expand naturally and beautifully into community: a space without borders in which you can move freely and feel its support all around you, helping you grow into your highest self.
At 38, home is only now coming into focus for me. I write this so your journey can be shorter than mine. Accepting the hard parts of me took time: the severe anxiety and the things that soothe or heighten it, the boundaries with family that I need to feel like myself. Work towards accepting the whole of who you are and tending to the places you’ve rejected, hidden or denied. This is a first step to home. Commit yourself with me now to knowing who you are, what you need, and the people that support and expand you. That’s home. Build it, and protect it.