Home has always been different. Family is split by a stormy sea, like two sides of a coin, destined to never meet. Home moves. You’ve already lived in three countries by your third birthday. Home changes. You’ve never stayed in a school for longer than three years.
I’m a first-generation immigrant, yet I’m living in a century-old Olympia house that’s been in my family for three generations. What home means has always been complicated. Growing up, there never really seemed to be a place for me. Half of my family lives in a different continent, and half is scattered across the United States. It forces you to travel to see an aunt, let alone grandparents and cousins. There’s no connection to the new houses you step into, no history. They’re just four walls and a roof. I have learned to make my own home, as scattered as my roots.
Home is where your world is centered, where your family or friends are. The shelter over your head is only a small part of that. The roots you create are the foundation for what your home will be, not the concrete of the house. When you move to a new place, a new shelter, take a humble nomad’s advice: make as many memories as you can. Explore this new world you’ve found yourself in, go on adventures – it’ll help, I promise.
Once you’ve laid down the ideas that will help you build your sanctuary, you can start building your support group – your supporting beams in your home. This is where family and friends come in. They can help you settle in, they’ll help you build up and add depth to your new world. Let other people show you hope, let them show you what makes this world special, and hold onto the joy they bring. That’s your insulation, keeping out the howl of unfriendly peers and the sleet of new opinions. Decorations will come with time, themes will spring up in your experiences. Discussions whispered in the dead of night hang on the walls that had been painted with the smell of your grandmother’s cooking.
My homes live the same way. It’s in Olympia, under the bright blue roof of the aging house, and in Prague in my grandmother’s perfectly-kept living room where the cats roam and my grandfather slowly becomes one with the sagging armchair. Home is on the banks of the Vltava River, among the gulls and swans. Home is on the trails through the forest, where I can hear the echo of my friends’ laughter along with the songs of the returning birds. We leave smiles and wit in our footprints to be buried in the mud and leaf litter.
Your homes may feel different from one another. That’s alright, they’re not flawed. They reflect everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve built. Sometimes you’ll find a new part of your home by surprise, or rediscover dust-covered pieces in your wanders. Don’t worry. Home has always been different.