I’ve been questioning my relationship with “home” since I was 10.
I could bore you with the happy, All-American memories of my childhood from before then, but I rather just get to where things got real (because that’s where the growth happens!)
You never realize you're evolving and changing when it's happening—you don't have time to. Then one day, when the waves of change have settled for just a second, you look around and notice you've made it somewhere you haven't been before.
Sometimes you end up in a different physical location; other times it’s a different mental state.
One day you're climbing around Double Rock Park during your brother's football practice, the next you're sailing around the Amalfi Coast with people you just met. One moment your dad's pushing your bicycle down the street, the next you're in his hospital room saying goodbye (for the first time). One minute you're chowing down on your mom's speciality Hamburger Helper, the next you're running a successful restaurant alongside your chef boyfriend.
Your park might have a different name, and your mom’s go-to meal may be lasagna, but you know the exact places and feelings I’m talking about, nonetheless.
Passing moments that combine to create this beautiful, deeply woven story of lives spent living in a certain place and time together. Also known as: home.
Defining Where the Heart Is
Oxford defines “home” as: the place where one lives permanently.
I kinda have beef with that definition. Mainly the word “permanently”.
I don’t believe a home has to be permanent. Sure, you will always be “from” somewhere—can’t change that—but I believe your home can and should move with you, because it is you. It’s all those moments and feelings and memories and experiences that combine together to make a life within you. It’s not the hallways and doors and hardwood floors that surround you. That is a house.
When I lost my dad, it felt like I lost my home.
I know that might suck for my mom to read, or my friends, or her friends. But I also know you get it. Nothing was the same. Not even the roads we drove every morning on our way to school, or the 7/11 we stopped at before basketball games, or the Shania Twain CD that was permanently in the stereo.
I spent four blurry years in highschool thinking I knew everything there was to know about life.
I knew a lot more than your average teenager about death, and melanoma, and grief. But life? Shit, I knew nothing about her.
After highschool I "went away" to University of Delaware, which was just close enough that I could get home if I needed but far enough that my mom couldn't surprise visit me. (You know that saying, right?)
I still came home all the time, desperately grasping for a familiarity that just wasn’t there anymore.
It wasn't until I really "left" home to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark that I started to develop a sort of resentment for home. It wasn't the place I knew—and that knew me best—anymore.
Suddenly my world was so much bigger, and Parkville felt so insignificant.
I, too, felt insignificant.
I wanted to be anywhere other than home. There was just so much out there to see, why would I want to spend my time in one zip code? I wanted to make an impact on the world, and it felt like the only way to do that was by seeing every piece of it that I could. With graduation around the corner, I was actively looking for any option that wasn’t “move back home”.
My search took me to Florence, Italy for about a year.
Establishing a Home Within Yourself
Living abroad twice forced me to establish my own home in myself. Between egg-pan roommates, European hostels, cramped bus rides, shared closets (& showers), and Chianti-countryside-sleepovers, I never really had much of a physical place to call my own.
The only thing I had that was truly mine, was myself. My memories. My experiences. My emotions. My opinions. My words. My actions.
My favorite part of travel is exactly that: you get to learn who you truly are, because you have the option to be anything you want. When you’re extracted from your most-familiar environment and your roots are exposed, you learn what actually matters to you. You sort through the beliefs and values that have been instilled in you over time to find which ones align with who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow.
It’s an exhilarating thing to be so strongly grounded in yourself, truly. But it takes a lot of emotional effort to get there...it's not an easy, overnight process.
My time in Florence brought me to wonderous people that cracked open my world and exposed the deepest cracks and corners of myself. It forced me to lock in on the parts of my personality I was proud of, and start to shed the bad habits that were better left behind. It also fed the flame in me that wanted to go as far as possible, see as much as possible, and meet as many as possible in my time here. I was ready to keep going—there was no stopping me.
Big, Big Plans
I moved home from Italy in August 2019, with the mindset that I would “make some money and move to Australia”. That was it, that was the plan.
I moved back into my grandmother’s basement and didn’t even mind all the spiders because I was just going to “make some money and move to Australia”. That was it, that was the plan.
I started a new job—which quickly turned into a lifestyle—but I kept reminding all my new customers, coworkers, and friends that I was just there to “make some money and move to Australia”. That was it, that was the plan.
I started falling for an amazing guy who showed me a good time, listened to me, and put his all into me and us. But I was moving to Australia. That was it, that was the plan.
Until it wasn’t.
I think we can all remember where we were in March of 2020. I was packing my bags, starting to say my goodbyes, and gearing up for the next chapter of my life.
How about you? Big trip? Job change? Move? Yeah.
Suddenly, I wasn’t going anywhere. No one was.
Covid (part 1) was a real wild ride full of walks around the neighborhood, new hobbies, strange TV shows, ring lights, long drives to nowhere (on empty roads), secret dinners with friends, booze, maybe a little blow, and one giant bizarre moment where we all were miserable yet the happiest we’ve been in a long time.
I guess that’s when I started to get comfortable with home. Once I got over my initial feeling of forced linger, I started seeing it differently. Finding my own nooks and crannies; making friends for the grown version of myself; choosing my own neighborhood.
I fell in love with my current neighborhood, Locust Point, pretty easily, but it wasn’t always the warmest welcome.
It’s not easy to get accepted into a new neighborhood, no matter how bad you want to be. It helped I was dating a local celebrity. It did not help motto that followed him was “you either really love him...or you really hate him”. But he couldn’t make others accept me, although I appreciate how hard he tried. I had to put in the work myself. I had to show I deserved to be here, and I learned the only way you can show that is by actually wanting to be here.
But I was confident in who I was, and I was confident I belonged here. I'd like to think the people of this community saw the "home" that I have burning inside me, and saw that I wanted to put that love & passion down right here. So they let me.
Change of Plans
“Make some money and move to Australia” isn’t really the plan anymore. Not for right now, at least.
For right now, the plan is to try and “bloom where I was planted”.
It’s honestly been my most challenging, but exhilarating, adventure yet.
I’m excited to fall back in love with the city my parents chose to raise me in. I’m excited to hear stories about my dad while we gather around his grave site. I’m excited to pursue a career that has room for growth and development. I’m excited to create a home for myself in the place I’ve been fighting against for 15 years.
Sorry, Oxford, but your definition of "home" isn’t accurate anymore. In this day and age, your home is not meant to be permanent. It is meant to move and grow with you. It is meant to expand as you do. It is meant to shrink when necessary to protect you. It is meant to let you start over however many times you need to. But it is not meant to be limited to one set of coordinates, city, or zip code.
Accepting a change of plans and allowing yourself to plant roots is just as scary as ripping up those roots to make a change. I’m lucky for the home I have within myself, because it makes me that much more able to build one around me, wherever I may find myself.
If you’re struggling to accept where you are now, take a moment to pick your head up and see how far you’ve come. Even if you’re right back where you started physically, you’re not the person you once were in this place. So let’s see what this version of you can do here.
Plans change, babes. And that’s okay.