When Your Childhood Home No Longer Feels Like Home

by Lauren Santye

What makes a home a home can mean a lot of different things to many different people.

Perhaps it's about the meaningful possessions with which we fill the blank canvases that are our homes. Or, it could be the college dorm you live in for eight months out of the year.

Maybe it's a place where your family is all living under one roof, building and making memories together.

The idea of home has changed for me over the years. At first, it was little by little, creeping in slowly, until it changed completely, and my childhood household no longer felt like the place I considered home.

The first thing that changed for me was my room. When I was packing up my belongings and headed to college for the very first time, my room remained seemingly unchanged since I was a child.

I knew every inch of it -- every peeling sticker on my door, my closet wall plastered with a collage I had done in a moment of sparked creativity.

I knew the hundreds of glow-in-the-dark stars that littered my ceiling; I put them there when my fifth-grade self was convinced I would be an astronaut one day.

The first time you leave your childhood home feels monumental. It's a place you know you will see again, yet it's still makes you feel sad and nervous for the unknown.

Each time I returned home during holiday breaks, or just because I missed my family, my room felt less and less like mine.

Everything looked exactly the same; nothing had been moved or was out of place. But it felt overwhelmingly different. This was a place that although I recognized it, felt like I was standing in someone else's space.

I remember the first thing I'd do each time I came back to it; I'd sit on the floor and not say a word, soaking in my surroundings.

I realized I was starting to outgrow my childhood room; this space I once spent hours in no longer felt like it used to.

My college dorm room became homey in its own special way. Despite the stark-white walls and off-white tile flooring, it changed from feeling uncomfortable to comfortable.

My roommates and my friends became my family away from home.

However, there was still that limbo of each place not filling my childhood vision of what I defined as home.

I was caught between one place feeling both familiar and foreign, while the other was a newer and stranger place in which I slowly found comfort.

I have an almost desperate nostalgia for home. The apartments I have lived in have always felt temporary; none of them filled that void of home.

I did find a sense of comfort from them, and I relish in my good fortune of being able to live alone.

Privacy is something I cherish in my life; it gives me the opportunity to decompress after a stressful day.

However, these places lacked permanence. They lacked those meaningful memories I created in my childhood home.

Author Danzy Senna wrote:

“It's funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, 'I want to go home.' But then you come home, and of course it's not the same. You can't live with it, you can't live away from it. And it seems like from then on there's always this yearning for some place that doesn't exist. I felt that. Still do. I'm never completely at home anywhere.”

When I would read or hear people discussing how home stopped feeling like home, I couldn't identify with them for the longest time. Until a couple years ago, it all finally clicked and everything they were saying was everything I was feeling.

I think one of the most prominent struggles with your childhood home has to do with missing your adolescence.

Many of us can look back on our childhood with fond memories. We remember the simplicity life had, playing outside for hours and not returning inside until you were called in for dinner.

You spent your time climbing trees and building forts. You swam in pools all day, picked hundreds of wild raspberries and played with the neighborhood kids, your best friends, cousins and siblings. There were no tough decisions you had to make.

We have to realize we can't keep chasing our childhood memories and this unattainable sense of “home” forever; we have to keep growing, evolving and redefining what home means to us.

Although the idea of home is continually changing, there is comfort in knowing it won't feel lost forever.

Someday, my idea of home will come back to me. It certainly won't be tomorrow or even a year from now, but it will return.

Just like the cycle of life, my children and my children's children will one day search for the idea and feeling of home, too.

I think it's something everyone will hunt for, hoping for that place of belonging, pursuing the place they can finally call home.

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