Can you ever really go home?
As someone who has recently left home, the perception of home as a concept has become somewhat of a preoccupying question in my mind. Because this to me is what home is — home is merely a notion. You may live in a certain place or a certain type of house, apartment etc., but it is the idea of home which creates the emotionally potent cocktail of a few parts nostalgia and a few parts disdain. I think that for the most part when someone is asked to think of home they think of a set unchangeable destination. However, I don’t regard home as a fixed stable place. I see it as a place which becomes attached to several ideas, making the home an associative space. We allow these spaces to become mythologised and glorified entities. A need grows to feel as though there is a comforting place to return to and so we allow these fictions we create to become real.
Being removed from home (or more accurately put- the house I grew up in) is allowing me to examine my relationship with the idea of home. I am coming to see that I have a fluctuating relationship with home, my opinions about it and my needs for it are never entirely the same. In roughly the past three years I have gone from one country, back to another and then back to the one before that. Or more simply put Paris to Dublin to Amiens (which is a town in France- a town I had not heard of before I came here). Some people look upon this as courageous and congratulate me on my brave decisions. Yet, when I look at my time travelling, I’m no longer really seeing it as travelling. This is because each time I’ve lived in these places- unbeknownst to myself I’ve been in the pursuit of trying to establish a home. Each time I’ve gone there has been a reason; a structure to my existence there. Something to create belonging- see?: home searching. Travelling on the other hand I’d consider something quite different — it’s being a spectator, a sampler. In my travelling there are always set structures and even repeated countries. So I don’t really consider myself to be overly adventurous but rather someone just searching for stability in different places.
Yet, why search to find another home? Why this itching fascination with France? As I mentioned earlier the idea of home is probably for most people constructed on nostalgia or disdain. Yet, the feeling of nostalgia is one only really felt through distance. Mostly while living at home we are critical and quick to be disappointed with our surroundings. It is not uncommon to think that if you leave a familiar place behind, you can also leave behind a lot of emotional baggage and unnecessary ties. Or perhaps it’s just a simple case of not knowing how to quench the mild dissatisfaction of routine life and thinking that the only way to do so is to physically leave the home space. In my case, I fancied that France could be the place to defeat these feelings. And so I managed to carve out what felt like a new home to me among the bread and the art and metros of Paris. I got to know the ins and outs of the city all the while falling in love with it. And so like all beloved homes it became for me a glorified home space based on nostalgia and in my perception superiority to anywhere else. And so in my mind, it became fictionalised into the only place worthy of a return- my real “home” rather than the one I was born into.
Out of necessity I had to live in my native Dublin the following year. And it really wasn’t all that bad- I know that I am lucky in having an actual house with people I love in it to return to. Yet, the obsession that I had found a home elsewhere still remained at large in my mind. So applications were sent out to return to my non-native mother land. Out of my attempts to get back there I ended up being in a situation in which I was going to live in neither of my homes. And now that I have been here for a month, I can say many positive things about the place and feel as though I do have a good few things figured out but my gut says that this isn’t and never will be a home to me. And so my fictionalisation of my other two homes has never been greater. I think that in the case of Dublin I am emphasizing the importance of people and with Paris I am over romanticising the importance of place. When I think of Dublin, I think of how much easier life would be and with Paris how much more interesting life would be. So I am stuck in a homeless middle ground, my home life at present neither being super easy nor super interesting.
But how have these ideas of home really been created? What are the factors which allow for the creation of the associative space of home? On reflection I think that it is actually neither the people nor the things that make a home a home. I think that it is the self that is associated with these spaces which allow a place to become a home. The great things like friends made and the food eaten add to the creation of a home but really it is how we respond to these things that allows a mere place to be viewed as a home. If the general emotions we felt or actions we took in these places evolve as positive associations in our minds then we will want to seek out that comfort again- thus the creation of a nostalgic, longing filled space. So, it is how I acted and how I lived in Paris and in Dublin which has enabled me to consider them as homes. So, if the creation of home is dependent on the self, then home can exist outside of a singular rigid idea. It can be seen as something in flux, ever to be sought out in any place, anywhere, at any time in life. To me, this fluidity is far more comforting than the fixation on one over-glorified never changing place.