Sunday, June 5, 2011


As the traveller, the wayfaring stranger that I am, I do often reflect on "home," what it is and what it means to come there. As readers, you may have wondered yourself, sometimes, where my home is or where I feel most at home. And I think the reason I reflect on the subject so much is because I haven't got a definitive answer for myself!

My original concept of home was a place that was familiar, a structure, be it a house or condo or what have you, a place where you felt safe, and somewhere that's a refuge. I had most of that growing up, all except for the refuge part as family issues often created certain difficulties, but for the most part, I thought the house where I grew up was a good place to be. I knew my way around. I knew my neighbours. And I liked them. The places I hung out and went to school were nearby. And it was indeed familiar as I lived there for 16 years of my life.

That house was sold a year after my parents separated and my brother moved to the US for school. My mom and I moved into a new place, and we had to make that our home. I had hoped it would become home, anyway. I painted a mural on my bedroom wall with the sense that this would be a permanent place to come back to. My mom and I lived there for a few years, seeing me through the majority of my undergraduate and graduate school life. But life changed again, and neither my mom or me was to remain in that place, and shortly after my mom remarried, she moved into a new house. That happened while I was living in Mexico, and while it saddened me in many ways, I had thought I would eventually make a life and a home in Mexico now that I was living on my own with the intention of staying there and never moving back to Canada.

Oh, how life changes. I lasted 2 years in Mexico but was unable to develop any community of stable and reliable friends (I did have good friends, but some were other Canadians that wouldn't be there with me forever, so they were reliable but just not stable to stay there). There were many reasons for this, which are not worth going into, but suffice it to say that what I was hoping to have happen to create the home I wanted--developing that network of friends, meeting and marrying someone and buying a home, having good work/life balance--did not happen, and I returned home to recuperate.

I thought I would only stay here for a couple of years before heading out to another country again or even to another city. But I've stayed in my home city since I returned from Mexico and have gone through a lot of instability here such as the inability to find employment I like well enough to stay at for a long period of time, and this has taken a bit of a financial toll on me, which makes it more difficult to leave again when I think about moving expenses. I think I'm digressing. In any case, during this time, my grandparents' yard was also sold to someone outside the family after Grandpa passed away (at least I think that's the chronology of events, if I remember right), and Grandma remained in the house for some years but eventually had to move into a home as her health deteriorated, and she wasn't able to look after herself anymore. This felt like a pretty big blow the first time this event seemed it would become a reality as the farm felt like the only home I had left in the world. It was the place I spent my childhood summers, a place of fun and where there were so many good memories and where happy memories of childhood seemed to outnumber the sad ones. But now it is gone.

When you see your homes disappear from your life, it's unsettling, literally. I feel unsettled because I feel like there's no real home for me, no place where I have the kinds of deep-rooted memories and the history that I had with these places.

I have also realised over time, as a result of these events, that part of the reason I struggle with this is that I dwell too much on the past, that I dislike change, and that I'm an "out of sight, out of mind" person that needs the visual cues to evoke memories of the past. Maybe that's why it's better I not have these things. Maybe I never would have moved forward. I have now no attachment to a place. Because I rent an apartment now, my memories here seem impermanent, like they don't want to sink into the walls to tell a story later one because they know it's not going to last, so there's no point in trying. (I love my apartment's location, though, as it's a couple of blocks from the house where I grew up, and I feel like the neighbourhood is my home.) I realised that this instability has made me thankful, in some ways, of being forced to have no attachment to a place and of having other things I have no attachment to, like traditions, because we didn't really have many of them growing up anyway. And so as it seemed like my whole life fell apart, I came to the understanding that all I really want is stability, something that doesn't change, or something that I can rely on. That's what my home will be. It might be a place. It might be a relationship. It might even be my faith. It will be a space that provides me with rest, to fully be myself without fear of judgment, a refuge from the world when it seems like it's raging against you.

What's home to you? I haven't found it yet, though I do enjoy my quiet solitude in my apartment sometimes, and I can only presume that my definition may once again change as life goes on, and I get a little older, and hopefully a little wiser.


  1. Great post! As someone who has also travelled a lot and has been away for a long time, I often think about home. Now that I am married and own a house, I am starting to feel like I've created a stable home in Edmonton. But, home is where the heart is they say, so for me, that's a lot of places: Ramallah, Jerusalem, Gaza, Kabul, Herat, Ottawa, the tree under which my father is buried, my sun room, Drumheller, Michichi, Rob's Lake, Tatlock...

  2. It's amazing the number of homes we feel we have after living overseas or away from our hometown, anyway. My brother's place is a bit of a home for me as I've been there enough that I feel pretty comfortable there, so that helps a bit, anyway! If he moves, I might be toast again ;o)