Home. How does one define it? Miriam Webster defines home as one’s place of residence, the social unit formed by a family living together, a familiar or usual setting, and a place of origin. Even Webster can’t give it just one definition because it so many things to so many people.
After a recent trip back ‘home,’ I’ve come to define it as the place where your people are.
I’ve grappled with the definition of home for a while now. Having lived several different places over the past decade has made it difficult to define home. Is my home where I grew up and where my mom and my dad continue to live? Is my home in whatever state we are currently stationed with my husband and my boys? The answer I’ve learned is it’s both/and. Home is both in Virginia and currently in San Diego. Previously, home was both in Virginia and in Connecticut.
For me, the answer is both/and not because of a physical place, but because of the people in EACH place. I loved going home (to Virginia) to see the people that I grew up with and around. I also loved returning home (to San Diego) to see the people with whom I currently do daily life.
This wasn’t an easy answer to come by. I can be very rigid, black and white in my thinking, so home had to be a definite place, situated a certain way, with all the things that made it feel like home. Which meant I wasn’t free to live anywhere, because I was constantly stuck in how one place didn’t match the other or how my friends were in this place and not that one.
Coming to this both/and mentality is a direct result of my trip back to the east coast. I had so much anxiety about going. For starters, I hadn’t been there since I moved to California 2 years ago. I’ve done a lot of growing in those years and I wasn’t sure the ways I currently think, feel, or act would fit in. Secondly, I didn’t want to leave my routines in California. I love the way my week is planned around the things that keep me healthy: therapy, my small group, my church, and my commitments to certain groups. Though I knew that returning to Virginia for most of my boys’ summer break was inherently a good thing, I could only see it as really good for them. I knew they needed time with my parents and wide-open spaces in which to run and play.
Black and white thinking: bad for me/good for them, hard for me/easy for them. I knew I was doing a good thing for my boys but I couldn’t see where I would benefit, only what I was giving up.
Since returning home (to San Diego) after spending 5 weeks at home (in Virginia) I’ve wrestled with a real sense of grief and loss. Returning to San Diego was difficult because of the people I left in Virginia and the fun we had while I was there. It was unexpected, this feeling of grief. Because I had been so anxious on the front side of the trip I had not expected to have trouble leaving, after all I was returning home, to my husband and my routines. I thought I would be ecstatic, to be back at my house, meeting with my small group, and returning to our normal routine. And it was good to do all of those things and see my people, yet the hollow sense of loss remained.
Sitting with that hollowness is how I came to the both/and answer of home. Both places can be home because I feel at home in both. Miriam Webster defines the feeling of ‘at home’ as relaxed and comfortable; at ease; in harmony with the surroundings; on familiar ground.
Home is where my people are. My people make space for me to feel relaxed, comfortable, at ease, in harmony with my surroundings, and on familiar ground. Fortunately, for me, my people span this country from east to west, and north to south. Home is where they are both here and there.