The Trouble With “Home”


hōm/ noun

the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. 

People say that home is where the heart is, but the problem is that my heart is inside of me. I understand the figurative meaning of the phrase: that people leave their hearts in certain places that have defined them; places to which they feel drawn long after they have left. It is for these places that they become “homesick.” They put down roots when they are there, and they want nothing more than to return to those roots and keep growing in that place.

But what about those of us who have no such place?

What do you do about the people who think hard about where they have been and find no roots to which they can reattach?

I used to think I had lots of homes; that I had left my heart in so many places that I had roots absolutely everywhere. But recently I’ve realized that I’ve done quite the opposite.

It’s not that I don’t put down roots. On the contrary, I quickly establish deep roots wherever I am. I like to feel like a local; a regular. But when I move on, however difficult that may be at the time, I do so with such force and resolve that I take my roots with me when I go. 

I’ve always said that I’m a light switch, not a dimmer; I’m either all in or completely out.

Honestly, this has devastated my relationships.

As a recent college graduate (it’s been almost two years, but that’s still fairly recent), I’m in a fairly transitional stage of life. I’ve lived in five different places over the last seven years, and I’ve tried rooting myself in all of those places.

At first glance, it seems like an ideal situation. I have people all over the map that I can lean on in hard times. I rarely have to book a hotel room when I travel. I have an excuse to go on countless weekend trips.

In theory, being so transient is great. In practice, though, it kind of sucks.

The reason for this is simple: when you’re so busy trying to keep up all your old relationships in different parts of the country and even the world, you miss the opportunity to really dive into your relationships where you are. As a consequence, it becomes harder and harder to put down new roots because you’re always trying to water old ones. And eventually you realize that your old roots are gone, and you’ve yet to effectively plant them where you are.

The solution should be simple: fade out the ancillary relationships afar and focus on investing on what is right in front of you. That is the solution that makes the most sense, and it’s what most people end up doing. But if I’m being honest, that solution scares the crap out of me. Because what if I miss out on something? What if I never know what I’m missing? What if I end up settling for second best out of fear that I won’t get anything at all?

And then there’s the fact that my current situation is most likely temporary. What do I do with that? Do I refuse to plant new roots and hope that the experiences I’m having are enough to make me feel fulfilled? Or do I plant them anyway knowing that, come January, they’ll most likely have to be pulled up quite traumatically? 

Nobody likes to be around someone who always has one foot out the door, but maybe that person is just straddling the threshold because it’s the only way to stay balanced.

Here we have the key struggle of my twenties so far: balancing my desire for adventure and experience with real and authentic relationships in which I feel truly invested. I’m still trying to figure out how to have the best of both worlds, which I’m not even sure is possible.

If you have any advice on the subject, I’d love your feedback in the comments.


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