I grew up in Southern California, in a bustling suburb of Los Angeles, surrounded by family and childhood friends. It was my home. When I was 17, I moved to a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California. It took some time to adjust, and then it became home for the next 25 years or so, before moving to North Idaho.
But the story doesn’t end there. I never felt “at home” in Idaho, and so, after eight years and when my life circumstances changed, I made the move back to the mountains where I had spent most of my life.
It’s funny, when I was in Idaho, I stayed very active. I went mountain biking and hiking and skiing with friends, we went to each other’s houses (in that old-fashioned way where you just knock on the door) and I stayed involved with my kids’ schools and sports as well as the community. I just never really felt like I fit in, being a liberal Jew from California, and indeed I didn’t. Some made that abundantly clear. So I guess that sense of belonging was never really there in Idaho, and for me, to feel at home is to feel like you belong.
That’s not to say that I now live in an area where everyone is like me, and I prefer it that way. The fact is, I have found my community here that I never did in Idaho. While I’m still in the minority, it isn’t quite as lopsided, and generally speaking folks are a bit more accepting of those who are different. I’ve never felt unsafe here as I did in Idaho.
This sense of belonging, the desire to fit in, is basic to the human experience, part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Belonging is different than inclusion. You can be included in a community, which I was, by serving on boards, organizing events and having a voice, and still not feel like you belong. To belong is to feel welcomed as your authentic self without fear.
For me, home is not just a location, but a somewhat complicated mix of people, attitudes, security and comfort. And home means different things to different people. So I posed that question to a few people I know and here are some of their responses:
“Home means a familiar place of comfort, love and support where I can be myself. I feel at home when I feel accepted.”
“Home is not just one place. It’s the places I grew up, where my mom lives, the place my heart feels most content. As an introvert, the space I’ve created in my home as my sanctuary is home. Home is more than just where I reside.”
“I feel at home with people I am comfortable with, who I trust and I know love me, and who I feel safe to be myself around. I feel at home when I’m laughing, when I’m around animals and kids, and when I’m hanging out in the kitchen or in cozy, good vibes spaces. I always appreciate when I feel it, because it doesn’t happen as frequently as I’d like. The beach makes me feel at home.”
“For me, home is something that can’t be described with words, but rather emotions. It’s that feeling of sitting beneath a warm, soft blanket and drinking cocoa while snowflakes flutter to the ground. It’s safety and security, a place that protects the things I hold most dear: my family. A protected space where we can turn off the personalities we wear throughout the day and just … be ourselves.”
Maybe some of these thoughts resonate you and maybe you have a whole different idea of what “home” means. And do you think you can make a home where ever you are, or are there places that will never feel like home? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.