In an everyday conversation, I would think nothing of saying, “I’m going to my house,” rather than “I’m going home,” or vice versa. The words “house” and “home” both elicit the same image in my mind: a suburban residence painted with vivid hues, encircled by a verdant lawn peppered with flowers, perched against a backdrop of towering evergreens. What I picture is my house, the place my family and I occupy, which is also my home. But beneath the surface, a house and a home aren’t quite as synonymous I’ve made them out to be.

A house itself bears no emotional significance. It’s merely a building with living quarters, where you eat and sleep and go about your business shielded from nature’s wrath. But home, I’ve learned, is more of an idea. Something that can adapt, something almost sentient. It’s anyplace, anyone, anything that carries safety, trust, and love. Thinking of it like this, a house can be a home, and for many people it is. But others may find home in a cramped yet cherished apartment, or a person closer to their heart than anything, or a hobby that brings out all the best in them. Homes are both physical and psychological shelters.

For me, my house, brimming with comfort and care, perpetually infused with the aroma of garlic and onions, is my home. My best friend, always there to listen, to make me laugh, to hold my hand and let me cry, is my home. And my writing, where I let words and ideas spew out of me like soda from a shaken can, is my home. My home is where my heart lies, where I can express my emotions and thoughts without insecurity shackling me back.

In truth, a home is defined by how you feel when you’re there. Maybe home is where you’re swathed in tenderness, or where you can relax your shoulders after a stressful day. Maybe it’s where you’re loved no matter the circumstance, or where you’ve forged infrangible bonds of trust. Maybe it’s all of that and more. Whatever it is, it’s evident that a house, or anything else, must evoke that feeling in order to be a home: that sincere warmth and assurance, that special atmosphere, that vast concept that is best summed up as simply “feeling at home.”