The older I get, the more I struggle with the idea of home.
As young adults, we move from home to college to traveling to everywhere else; we never seem to be solidly in one place.
Even when we are, our emotions certainly aren’t, and our idea of where we feel at home is changing all the time.
Traditionally, a home is the place you live or the place where you grew up. For us though, that definition doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.
Maybe it worked when we’re kids, but now it’s too black and white. A home can be so many things, even at all once.
We’re all just nomads, so home can be anywhere.
So, what does home mean to a 20-something nomad?
1. A home can be a bed.
I form relationships with beds, and maybe you do, too. A lot of beds have come in and out of our lives over the years.
We’ve lived in multiple different dorms, apartments, even houses our families have occupied over the years.
In each place, we hopefully had a bed, and in each place, this bed has had its own character — its own role in our lives. There are qualities we might look for in a bed.
I guess most of us don’t think about our bed being like a home. But, if you think about it, we spend much more time there than we do a lot of other places.
We spend six-to-eight hours sleeping every night, if we’re lucky.
Even if we’re not so lucky and our sleep happens much less than it should, we’re always day dreaming of getting to nap, of getting to fall back into our beds again.
We sometimes share our beds with people: friends, lovers, strangers even.
Our beds are sacred and yet, just like we let others into our homes, we let them into our beds.
Relationships can form in beds, and so can lives. They’re a home all their own, and no two are exactly alike.
As strange or alone as you may feel in a place, your bed will always be there at the end of the day to welcome you.
2. A home can be a city you’ve spent years in.
The barista at the coffee shop on the corner knows your name and so does the homeless man who opens the door to that coffee shop for you every morning.
You can give directions without really thinking about it and read articles written about this place with pride because in a way, it will always be a little bit yours.
You’ve cheered with the triumphs. You’ve cried with the tragedies. You’ve lived through the moments and been a part of them, too.
You know this place like you know your toes or your elbows.
You’ve spent more than just time there; you’ve spent phases and romances and epiphanies there.
You’ve learned so much there. You’ve watched flowers bloom and buildings rise, and similarly, they’ve watched you grow, too.
You’ve spent years in this place, but that’s not what makes it home.
It’s the time you kissed and discussed the importance of letter writing on that hill that overlooks the whole city.
It’s every snowflake that hit your face during every winter you endured.
It’s all the love you felt while you lived there. This is what makes it home.
3. A home can be a city you just met.
Regardless of how far we’ve traveled or how often, there’s still so much of this world we have yet to see.
We’ve tried our hand at different places and different lives, but how can we know where we really belong when we haven’t even seen it all yet?
Sometimes, you go to a place for the first time, and your heart is instantly alert; this is one of your places. This is one of your homes.
You have just arrived and yet, you already feel connected, as if you’ve known this city for years.
You feel at home in a way you’ve never felt before because this place is a brand new home.
You’re only there for a week, two days or a moment but somehow, it is still yours.
You wander the streets and observe the people and think, I could learn here. I could love.
And as you board your plane, car or train, you regard this new home of yours with a smile and promise: I will be back for you.
4. A home can be a building.
High above a city in your own little room, it might feel like you’re in an entirely different world. Sometimes, the city below just doesn’t feel like home.
It’s a place you’re in and it has its quirks, its upsides and its attractions, but it doesn’t quite feel like yours.
The building you live in, however, a tower above everything else that doesn’t feel right, fits you so well.
Maybe it’s who lives there with you that makes it so sweet. Maybe the comfort is in all the windows and sunlight.
Maybe part of it is that you know it’s not for keeps. Your place in this building is only temporary and while that’s sad and fleeting, there’s also something romantic about it.
You make a home in this building as you have in so many other places before.
You fill it with things you hold dear, including your worries and dreams and for a little while, it is yours.
5. A home can be a person.
When the whole world feels like it’s against you, very few places might feel like home for a time. This is only temporary.
We all wage war with the world around us at times. During these times, we might not feel at home in any place, building or bed.
The one place we feel at home, that comforts us when everything else feels strange, might just be a person.
A person can be a home like all the rest. A warm fire with a good book flickers in his or her eyes; the smell of Dove soap and your downstairs bathroom wafts off his or her hair.
You can taste the home cooking on his or her tongue and see a place of belonging lingering in his or her smile.
This person is a home and should never, ever, be taken for granted.
This person might not be a home you live in forever — we all move away sometimes.
We might drift apart from this person, accidentally or maybe on purpose.
No matter the reason we moved out and on, one thing is sure: Whether we want them to or not, even if we find new people to house us, this person will always have the ability to feel like home.
6. A home might not be the town you grew up in.
Just because you had a house, went to school, made friends and grew up in a place doesn’t always mean you consider it home.
Just because you lived in a place, doesn’t mean it fits you. We are not all defined by the towns in which we grew up.
Our parents picked that town to live in because it was where they’d always been, it had good schools or it simply fit in a way they loved.
They may have picked it because to them, it felt like home.
We are not defined by the choices made for us. A place can always be special, but it doesn’t have to feel like home.
7. A home can just be you, all alone, whether that’s what you want or not.
Sometimes, against everything else, we have to learn to house ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with finding a home in ourselves.
Our own hearts can be the warmest, most welcoming place of all if we let them be.