The True Meaning of Home
With preparations to move to a new address at the end of the month, it’s been almost impossible for me not to think about the sense of comfort we get from being in a place we can call home.
As we slowly dismantle our apartment, purge what we no longer need, carefully evaluate what we will take with us and diligently tuck away our belongings into boxes, I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t been a little emotional.
They say moving can be one of the most stressful events in one’s life, that it can be almost as stressful as having a death in the family. Although I do believe moving can be a giant inconvenience, I’d like to think I am a bit of an expert mover, and thus hopefully less affected by the stress associated with it. In the past 13 years alone, I’ve moved over 17 times! I’ve been able to cultivate the very handy skill of packing my stuff and moving on.
This move, however, has taken me by surprise with a mixed range of emotions. Almost two years ago, we decided to move here to become a family. Our intention when we found this place was to build a home where we could start our lives together as husband and wife, a place where we could host our family and friends. And that is exactly what we did. It was our first home together and a great start to our married life.
As I continue packing and the moving date approaches, I keep reminding myself of why we are doing this to begin with. We leave our current home with full hearts and plenty of good memories, and we look forward to the next chapter of our lives. Our soon-to-be new home was selected with different intentions. It will be our creative studio, and although we will always continue to have space for friends and family, the primary purpose of our new apartment is to have a place to create. Everything we have selected has been chosen with that intention. We have workspaces (no more drawing and typing on the dining room table!) and the opportunity to adopt a furry four legged new family member.
Although this is not the most difficult move I’ve experienced, it is certainly the one I am most grateful for. First, because we have the privilege to make an intentional move, to choose when and where we are moving to, and to continue living in a home that aligns with our values and the way we want to live our lives.
Secondly, because it’s reminded me of all of the homes I’ve had, and it’s made me rethink the meaning of having a home. Growing up, I used to be really attached to a particular idea of what that meant. Today, my views are a bit different. A quick Google search gives this definition of home:
“the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”
Although I respect this idea, I don’t agree with it at all. Some of us don’t always get to have permanent homes, or live with families. And that does not mean that we don’t have homes.
I know because there have been times where I’ve had the permanence of an address, and yet felt anything but at home.
Together with my 17 moves, I’ve had all sorts of physical homes. Some have been more challenging than others. I packed my bags for the very first time when I was 21 and I was taking the biggest leap of my life, leaving my family, friends and language behind, moving from Mexico to Canada. Later on, I’ve moved to start over after experiencing heartbreak. I’ve moved to live with a good friend during the last months of his life. I’ve moved to be close to family and I’ve moved to create a home I could feel proud of as a young adult woman.
The upcoming move has also reminded me of those who are even less fortunate. This week alone, I’ve seen a good friend temporarily lose her home to a flood. And we’ve received an update from our neighborhood association regarding the Syrian family we sponsored to come to Canada. Due to government bureaucracies, their arrival date continues to be delayed, which means they will have to continue living in a tent in Northern Iraq. Although both situations are completely different, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult any of it must be. It’s made me appreciate, like you wouldn’t believe, the gift of living out of boxes, purging and dealing with the weirdest human beings while I sell what we no longer need on Craigslist (seriously, a whole series of articles could be written about the Humans Of Craigslist!).
My heart is full of gratitude and compassion.
I’d like to think no matter what life throws at us, we will always have a home. Having a physical space to live in is our right as humans, but in the end, we carry our homes in our hearts. It’s the meaning that we attach to those spaces, the intention we set and the people we are with (or without!) that make a space, home.
I want to remember this as we continue packing and on March 31st, as we begin to unpack. Four walls don’t make a home. Neither does furniture, location or perfect conditions. We make our homes. We move them with us. They have always been inside of us, and if we wish to, regardless of circumstance, we can carry them with us wherever we go.