Redefining Home

Home is a concept that has undergone many a change in my heart since freshman year of college. Those earlier years of confused dislocation are documented well enough. But this year in particular has forced me to give up the idea of “settling,” or even of having only one home. The longest I lived in one space so far in 2021 was Apartment XXX, and somehow that never felt like home. It felt like someone else’s space, the college’s space, and it was a space I saw myself as “leaving” rather than “coming home to.” Pennsylvania felt more and more like a home to return to — due in part, I assume, to living there for a year after COVID began. That shift happened even though I was poised to launch elsewhere, and even though I stubbornly insisted on calling it “my parents’ house,” still under the illusion that I couldn’t possibly call that my home since I wouldn’t be living there anymore.

But since moving to Washington this summer (surprise?), I realize I’ve grown more comfortable and willing, emotionally and mentally, to call multiple places “home,” no matter how temporarily I take up space there. I talk about the things I need to fetch or memories I have from “back home in PA.” When I’m out running errands and my mother texts me, I tell her I’ll reply “once I drive home” to the family I’m currently renting a room from. When I left for a wedding, Auntie prayed on the way to the airport, “bring Eliana back home safely,” and I cried at the kindness. As I collect things for my new apartment, preparing to move yet again, I find that even as I look forward to that transition, I am more than content to be living in this current house. (This, despite the slump of despair I had a couple weeks ago that came from fear of indefinitely living someone else’s life and not truly belonging anywhere ever again.)

Turns out there was a major block underlying my inability to be at home in whatever space I’ve found myself in: the idea that home was something “out there” that I was looking for, working toward, that it had to look and feel a particular way and be filled with particular types of people and relationships. But what if home is wherever love is, as cheesy as that sounds?

As a Christian, I believe our ultimate home is with the Lord, and that’s always been an abstract idea difficult for me to grasp. But the Lord is love. So what if every time we glimpse love, in many forms, we glimpse the Lord and, thus, home? Because as far as physical spaces are concerned, home is, as I unconsciously envisioned for so many years, a returning. As broken people who wander off into our own ideas of goodness all the time, we are always returning to the Lord, his wisdom and mercy. Adam and Eve fled from the Lord; we’re inching back to him every day. Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, their home; we’re making our way back every day.

The same can be said of earthly homes. We return to where love is, however human and imperfect. And love can never be captured in or limited to one space or face. I think I’ve been placing false pressure on myself to bring everything about my life into one place, rather than having it sprawled across the country, as if controlling it all was what really made a home. But perhaps it’s nothing to be ashamed of to have many homes, to leave pieces of oneself in different places, whether those aspects of identity are found in physical objects or people or memories. It is good to have many places we feel safe to return to — many places where love is waiting to welcome us home.

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