If we’re going to talk about home, we should at least define what home is, right?
Maybe it’s where your closest family and friends live, or maybe it’s where you have the most leisure to do whatever you want. Maybe it’s a certain time of day, when you work during the day in a job that you absolutely love, or maybe it’s those aesthetic “golden hours” where you can snap one for the gram. Let’s just type in “what is home” into Google and… yikes. You’ll find countless essays, TED Talks, blog posts, speeches, all attempting to describe what “home” is in a different way. Evidently, home, a word with infinitely many connotations, is something that is unique to each and every one of us. There is no wrong answer.
So let’s try to think about what home really is, in terms of that narrow window of time in which we transition into a new setting, such as adulthood, taking on independence and responsibilities as we spend time away from home—potentially for the first time in our lives.
Home, in some ways, is a Catch-22. When we’re far from home, we feel homesick, but when we return home, we eventually become sick of home. Feeling “at home” seems to be a condition that is mutually dependent on both being at our childhood home and being far from home. As we grow older, we strive to achieve more freedom with our lives, and yet, even as we independently soar over the hurdles thrown at us, we wistfully think back to the comforts of home. Especially with transitioning to a place far from home, whether it’s moving out to a new place or heading off to college, struggles such as academic stresses, struggles to fit in, and culture shocks can push us deeper into the turtle shell that has always protected us. Far from home, we think of the comforts of the past, while at home, we think of the independence we’ll have in the future. Seemingly, we are never content where we are at the moment.
I used to spend a lot of time wrapped up in the past. The what-ifs, the what-could’ve-beens, the what-could-I-have-done-differently—all of these thoughts consumed my present as I tried to use my past to correct my future. What if I hadn’t been so unmotivated to complete certain things? What if I had made different, possibly better friends? Far from home, these thoughts pervaded my mental space, consuming and corrupting my present. I hadn’t sought to loosen the ties with my childhood home. Effectively, by living in the past, I had managed to strengthen them, wishing for, to respectfully quote twenty øne piløts, “the good ol’ days.”
Living in the past might seem like an entirely personal event—after all, others can’t see what you’re thinking about. But especially with the advent of digital technology (and feel free to “ok boomer” me here), living in the past does invade the space of others as well. Technology has enabled us to maintain a quasi-connection with our home, creating virtual ties that take us back to the past. Far from home, we sink into where we feel most at home—our phones. Even when conversing with others, we unconsciously check our phones, afraid that if we don’t, we’ll lose our connections, our streaks. Maintaining that connection to the past by conversing with old friends makes us appreciate our old homes even more, but in doing so too much, we lose connections, streaks in the present—we lose those ephemeral opportunities to make new friends and new memories—a new home.
So let’s look at the word “home” from another perspective. Home, in essence, is where the moment is. Think about it—regardless of how far away our childhood home is, we can always manage to find a “new home” elsewhere, finding new friends and a new comfort zone. Sure, at first, when we enter a seemingly hostile environment, we might be afraid of anything and everything that approaches us. But as we slowly acclimate to the new environment, we end up finding a comfort zone, whether that be a new group of friends, a spot to nap, or a favorite coffee shop. And once we find that comfort zone, we can define that moment as “home.”
Having comfort zones in the moment has myriad advantages over a long-distance relationship with your childhood home. First off, having a home in the present is so much more effective at providing comfort due to its proximity in time. Just thinking about home won’t get you any closer—being at home is what gets you the feels. You don’t have to wait months to be at “home” if home is where you are—it travels with you. Second, having a home here and now allows you to actually enjoy the present. Experiencing and sharing emotions in real-time, rather than through a dehumanized medium such as texting or snapping, is much more beneficial to your happiness. For example, think of a hug. You’d rather get a hug in real life than the hug emoji over text, right? There are a thousand ways to read a human face but only a couple ways to read an emoji. Although everyone has different ways of defining home, establishing close friendships with actual humans could be the key to finding peace far from home.
It’s okay to maintain ties to home—but it’s okay to have more than one home. It’s okay to loosen ties with the past and come out of your comfort zone in search of a new comfort zone. It’s okay to live in the moment. Because that’s where home really is.