“They say that home is where the heart is. I guess I haven’t found my home.”
“This is my home…where I go when I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
For all of my Ingrid Michaelson fans out there, I hope you were singing along. Never before have two lyrics been written by the same person that are so contradictory and yet so true. The first lyric, from her song Are We There Yet? talks about the search for home, while the second lyric, from her song Home, confirms an automatic place of home.
I feel torn between both. In the whirlwind of life, I don’t know where my heart is, which subsequently means I have lost my home. Being away from my hometown for six years, I now feel like an outsider. Someone who is only a distant memory, that cousin in crumpled photos that people barely remember. Home feels amazing, but it’s no longer mine. College was a great time, but it’s over now. My heart was 100% committed to college while I was there, but now there seems to be a wall preventing me from ever going back. I don’t want to be that alumnus. And now, starting over again in a new city, I have yet to find home.
These past few weeks, I have been traveling all over the world. First to the Dominican Republic, then to New Orleans, and then back to Buffalo. I was constantly surrounded by people, friends, coworkers. And yet, and maybe because of it, as soon as I arrived back in Buffalo I felt a complete sense of loneliness and grief for what I used to call home. I felt lost, a feeling that is not common to me. At least not in matters of home. Because of it, my immediate reaction was to go home home, to my hometown, to my family. I was hesitant at first. It’s a five hour drive, gas is expensive, and I didn’t know if my short time home would be worth the extensive travel plans or the funds for gas.
I called some close friends before I made my decision, sent some texts. Friday night 11 pm: “Do you think I should go home?” Some were nice about it and helped me externally process, while others were a little more abrupt in their response, “I don’t know, Michael! It’s your choice!” Okay, true…but not very helpful. I went to bed not really sure how I felt. My stomach was in knots (potentially from accidentally drinking some water in my past travels to the Dominican Republic), but regardless, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. “Home” was screaming my name, but I didn’t know where that home was. I still wanted to be soaking up the sun in the DR, or eating beignets with my friends in New Orleans, or surrounded by family in a previous life where I felt like I belonged in every capacity of the word. So, I followed Ingrid’s advice and went home, the default home, “where I go when I’ve got no place else to go.”
And even though all of my clothes are now covered in cat hair, it was worth every minute in the car ride here. Home really is where the heart is. And even though my heart may be a little fragmented at the moment, pulled in several different directions, there will always be a piece of it in my hometown. It was worth it for the hugs from my parents, the surprised faces of my sister and grandmother, and the conversations with an inspiring family friend (who chooses to remain anonymous, but she knows who she is).
Home, in comparison to six years ago when I still lived here, may not be perfect. It may not be what I remember. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve grown up and have learned to see the world (and home) a little differently.
I don’t think this is a struggle that is unique to me. I see home as two very distinct ends of a spectrum. There’s the first eighteen years of life with a nuclear family of some variation…and then there’s the life as a middle-aged person with a partner, kids, maybe a cat (probably not), creating a family and a home of your own. But everything in between, everything in the middle, everything right now in my present life, is a dark muddled mess of gray clouds. It’s a fuzzy television screen. Can someone help me tune in to the right channel? Featured tonight: HOME! Tune in until you meet a partner and create a home and family all your own.
In the meantime, any tips or advice on how to create a feeling of home as a twentysomething?