Defining Home

Ever since I was a child, I have had issues with using the word “home.” defines the word simply enough — the house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household. Growing up as a quiet bookworm with a penchant for storytelling, I felt it meant something more.

When my family moved to Minnesota when I was 10 years old, I refused to call our house “home.” I was insistent that my home was back in Alton, Illinois — the place where I was born and raised, the place where my family and friends still lived. Even as I grew to feel comfortable in Minnesota, I viewed my home as a separate person or group of people. That became a theme throughout my life, and reached a crescendo when I moved to Middle Tennessee with my parents four years ago. I never felt “at home” while living there, and began to think of the few people in my life as a home.

About a year ago, that began to change very gradually. Then, about two weeks ago, I very suddenly realized how wrong I had been about my personal definition of home.

Two weeks ago, I caught a Greyhound bus out of Nashville, TN to Philadelphia, PA, in order to participate in Democracy Spring. On Saturday, April 2nd, I joined a group of complete strangers in front of the Liberty Bell to begin a 140 mile march to Washington, DC, where we would then sit in and risk arrest in order to take back our Democracy.

My family thought I was crazy, and even I doubted myself. I lost my job and left behind the life I had been building to join an activist movement.

As the march began, I marched quietly while the strangers around me cheered and chanted “This is what democracy looks like!” I eventually turned to a man walking next to me and asked him why he was there. We struck up a conversation, and then every other person I marched next to — from day one until day nine — had a story to share. It was amazing.

All week, I looked into the eyes of my fellow marchers and was thrown by the fact that they all looked similar, no matter the color. It wasn’t until one day, talking to a young man with eyes that were the same shade of hazel as mine, that I realized we all had the same fire burning inside. We all wanted to make a change, and our eyes showed it.

As of today, I have been on the move for more than two weeks. I tore a tendon in my foot on the march. I sat in at the United States Capitol, was arrested, and fined. I have been extremely busy while being consumed by overwhelming emotions. It has been almost dreamlike, yet the most natural thing in the world. I am the happiest I have ever been, and I have finally felt at home.

At the end of the first day of the Democracy Spring march, I sat on a mat in the gym of a church, pulled a notebook and pen out of my bag, and wrote a journal entry. It was four pages about how I had finally discovered what home is. Here is a small excerpt:

Sometimes, what you discover in life — and when — is astounding….
Today, having completed the first day of Democracy Spring’s March to DC, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not just one thing, one person, or one place that make a home….
I’m not going to find my home in a permanent place or in one person, as I’d always thought. I’m carrying it with me and fully HOME when I’m somewhere inspiring, doing something I love, surrounded by supportive, amazing people. It doesn’t matter where I live as long as I am involved in life and meeting awesome people, inspiring and being inspired, sharing my passions and being a storyteller.
I may not have been in my residence the past couple of days, but I have been at home. It’s unexpected, but exactly what I needed at this stage of my life. I can’t wait for the next weeks to come with Democracy Spring. 12 miles down. 128 to go. We started where it all began to take our message to those who are where it all IS.

Today, I am packing my bags to go back to my apartment in Tennessee. I am happy that I will get to see my dog, but sad to be leaving this movement and these people behind. Over two weeks ago, I was worried that I was making a mistake, but I have no regrets about being a part of this movement at all.

Democracy Spring showed me that my home is a flame that is always inside me — if I follow my passions and surround myself with people who do the same, that flame will never go out.

Even though I’m leaving, this was only the beginning. I will carry the fire of this movement with me for the rest of my life.

And I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. ;)