What is it, to be homeless? WIthout question, there are near-endless millions of human beings worldwide who do not have a single, physical location that they can call home. Surely, most of these people of dire circumstance count themselves among the homeless. However, I am not just speaking about them.
For the purposes of this writing, I will leave the definition of homeless simply as “to be without home.” I’m fairly certain that even my staunchest literary critics would have trouble finding fault in that = ). This simple definition leads us to a slight rephrasing of our initial question with serious implications. “How many of us have a home?”
I am extraordinarily grateful for the circumstances of my upbringing. I had a family full of love and encouragement and a healthy smathering of discipline which I think saved my life during my crash-test-dummy years. This isn’t to say we were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and we certainly had a fair helping of the usual failings four human beings as a family might expect. My apologies to the yellow journalism club, but I don’t air out other people’s dirty laundry. I have more than enough issues of my own to keep me busy, and I try to share them with others when they might be of actual service. Now, as everyone knows, parents don’t choose kids and vice versa, nor do siblings choose one another either. That being said, while I love my family by much more than blood (because they act like family!), I feel fairly certain that if we weren’t related that we wouldn’t move in the same social circles. My brother, elder by six years, was the glue that held the family together. It’s not like we would have been at each other’s throats if not for him, but he simply understood us much better individually than we understood each other. Even now, this is probably still true. In the fall of ‘93, he left for college, and my “home” left with him. I was 13 at the time. I wouldn’t have a home again until nearly 17 years later.
I still count myself as extremely lucky. There are many who have never had a home…..EVER. To have a home during your first 13 years (which many consider your most formative), is like hitting the lottery. Everyone has a different outlook on what makes a home a home, and even our best attempts sometimes leave the goal infuriatingly elusive. In the end, having a place you consider home has more benefits than can really be put into words. A home is an escape from the sometimes overwhelming world. It’s a sense of security. It’s a place where you can recharge and figure out your next move. It’s a place to keep your things. It’s a place where things make sense. It’s safe. Hell….at least, safer.
How many people do you know that have a place in their life that fits that description? Do you? Are you homeless?
This isn’t meant to make a whole lot of people, who wouldn’t ordinarily, feel worse about their lives. Nor is this meant to be an excuse for self-pity. At the same time, many can attest to the fact that material wealth, does not a home make. Smiling faces away from home, far too often conceal the pain hidden behind closed doors. If you don’t have a problem, then you don’t need a solution. And this problem isn’t always front and center. Sometimes it slowly eats away from the inside, as we slowly adapt(and accept) to ever worsening circumstances. Just as with being physically homeless; for a very select few, this isn’t a problem. They may even prefer it this way. For the rest of us: this is a problem…..a serious f’in problem.
I spent a number of years not calling anywhere in particular home. Honestly, it wasn’t until after I finally found a home again that I realized how negatively not having one affected me for so long. I didn’t really find a home either; I made one. What I came to realize after a while is that my surroundings became a creepily accurate reflection of who I was and how I was doing. As long as I stayed lost and chaotic, so did my surroundings. As long as I was content to only take and not give, my living situations showed it. The moment I started caring about others more of the time and myself less of the time…..I found that an apartment with a girlfriend, a cat, and a dog had become a family with a home.
It is my greatest wish, that in some ever slight difference of wording and circumstance, that this can be your story too. YOU ARE CAPABLE of making a home for you and yours, but this cannot happen if you their isn’t a conscious decision to make it so. And so, abruptly for some I imagine, this is where my story ends. No how-tos; no 10 step lists; no platitudes. The story will end and continues where it always began: in your hands.