As someone who has been living a nomadic life for the past year, I often get asked when I plan on going home. My answer is always “I don’t”. This response is generally followed by disconcerted glares and censorious tones. They assume that I must be running away. I must come from an abysmal place to not intend on going back.
The truth is that I have always had a strained relationship with home. I consider myself truly blessed to have grown up in such a beautiful city and will always hold it dear to my heart. It is not the geographic location itself that is at the root of the problem.
I never quite felt the strong connection to my hometown that most do. My disassociation with the place that raised me perplexed me for years. Why did I not exhibit that magnetism towards such a perfectly agreeable town? Maybe it was the weather or perhaps the size or maybe even the fact that monotonous suburbs were where I spent the majority of my days. For most of my teenage life though, I was filled with an overwhelming yearning to set off on my own. I was inordinately desirous to start over elsewhere. That is why the prospect of leaving for university, although unnerving, instilled within me an immense feeling of liberation.
The move to university was an adjustment, to say the least. I spent a chaotically euphoric year, forging my own path and learning how to function in the real world. The overprivileged suburban girl had not considered that everything had been tended to on her behalf for her whole life. She did not realize that she possessed not one ounce of self-sufficiency in her entire being. I had to learn how to do everything from taking a bus to laundry to dishes. Despite the jarring reality that mercilessly greeted me upon detaching myself from my bourgeois captivity, I felt strangely exhilarated. The parents, who had been hesitant of me leaving in the first place were dumbfounded to see the amount of maturity and personal growth that had transpired in those 8 months away.
The year came and went and I learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. I hesitantly returned to my comfort zone for the summer. That is when I got completely blindsided. I fell in love and everything changed. Suddenly, home did not seem so grim. The prospect of going back to school and leaving him behind, only to see him once a month was unfathomable.
Alas, I had no choice and I had to go. I spent the last 3 years of my university career idealizing the idea of my hometown, wondering how I could have ever wanted to leave such an inimitable haven. That suburban bubble had become the most enticing and reassuring place in the world. I attributed my change of heart to my time away. I believed that perhaps the move had instilled within me a new found sense of appreciation for my old stomping grounds. It was possible that I had just taken it for granted. Maybe, I did have that homely sense of attachment, after all.
Finally, after wishing myself there for years, the long-awaited post-graduation homecoming arrived. I was thrilled to finally be going back to the place that filled me with such comfort, once and for all. Regrettably, as you can imagine, I did not find the reassurance that I had envisioned in the toneless streets of suburbia.
Endless days were spent desperately searching for the source of my discontent. As the months went on, I felt my unhappiness culminating. It was an autumn day when it all hit me. In one fell swoop, it became clear that I would never be able to find solace in a physical locale. Home, in the traditional sense of the word, would never be able fill me with that sense of belonging and serenity that I so ardently desired. Home was not a set of geographic coordinates where four walls and a roof had been purchased by my parents. Home was a feeling. I was not longing for Ottawa. Ottawa was not home. He was home.
He was that safe place I had always yearned for. He was the place that I missed every minute of every day. He was the place that I couldn’t wait to run back to. He was the place that instilled me with an overwhelming sense of belonging and comfort. He was home.
This revelation turned my shallow, simplistic world upside down. Both panic and liberation filled my soul as I pondered this thought that had never before occurred to me. Coordinates could not dictate my happiness.
A sense of relief swept over me. My sedentary shackles came undone and I was no longer a prisoner to an arbitrarily selected spot on a map. I was free to roam wherever my heart desired without feeling tied down to my geographic placement. Unfortunately, the feeling of liberation was quickly overshadowed by an extremely troubling thought. He could not be home either.
I had imposed an exorbitant amount of responsibility upon this one individual. I had encumbered him with the task of supplying any and all of my happiness. It was selfish. It was indolent. It was unfair for me to expect him to provide me with something that only I should be responsible of creating for myself. I had set the person I loved most in this world up for inadequacy and in doing that, set myself up for despondency. By expecting him to be my happiness, I was unknowingly dulling his shine and my own and perpetuating a co-dependency that would ultimately lead us down a pernicious path. Our love deserved more than that.
It occurred to me that this had been a pattern in my life. Time and time again, I had wrongfully burdened places and people with this exorbitant chore of supplying a feeling that in reality, must come from within. It was unjust. My quixotic expectations of first, my home town and then him held me back in all aspects of my life. I relied on them because, of course, it is much easier to expect external factors to create your happiness than to make your own. I was lackadaisical. I did not want to make the effort of searching for the things that would bring me that innate sense of comfort, joy and ultimate fulfillment.
I guess that what I have rambled on to say is that my current lack of home has consolidated the notion that for some, home is not necessarily of the physical realm. It is not a place. It is not a person. Full reliance upon either of the two in the pursuit of happiness can lead one down an unsatisfying and harrowing road. That true sense of home, that pure and genuine joy, although greatly exalted when spent in the right places with the right people, can stem only from within. Home is but a feeling, a state of mind, a sensation that can only last when it has transpired out of the depths of our soul.
Kualoa Ranch, HI, March 2015.