Home is a State of Mind

I have never truly felt a connection to home. I have never experienced a static cling to a stationary place that has seen me through my various stages of development. I wish I had. I wish I could say the walls that have heard my first words were the same walls I clung to while fumbling my way into adulthood. I wish I could say there is an address I have rattled off since I was a child; a certain smell I associate with comfort and safety; a doorway that is able to lift the weight of the world off my shoulders as I walk through it; a floor that has kept me grounded all these years, but there isn’t. All there is is nostalgia for memories I have never made near a place I didn’t grown up in with a doorstep I haven’t tripped over in front of a house that never built me.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself as my mom and I move out of a waterbug-infested basement in Brooklyn into a more expensive roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself as my mom and I are evicted from this roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn, as I pack 13 years’ worth of tantrums and sleepovers and first kisses and screaming matches into garbage bags and cardboard boxes to be hauled into storage.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself as my mom and I couch surf our way through a holiday season because we hadn’t been able to wade through the sea of renter’s red tape fast enough to slap a return address on our Hanukkah cards before the last one was ripped off the envelopes.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself as I am thrown out of a place I never really considered mine three months after graduating college because a one-bedroom apartment isn’t big enough for the two of us anymore.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself as I walk through a doorway that has lifted someone else’s burdens; sleep on a mattress that’s molded to the curve of a body that is not mine; survey walls that document a life I didn’t live.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself, listening to my fellow 20-somethings smile with a faraway glint in their eye as they talk about going “home” for the holidays. I feel a pang in the hollowed-out part of my chest where home is supposed to live and think of what that tastes like, smells like, sounds like.

Home is a state of mind, I say to myself, and for the first time, I think maybe it is.

Maybe home is as much a house that has seen you grow from child to teen as it is an apartment in a new city you moved to three weeks ago to be closer to your first real job. Maybe home is as much the smell of warm cookies your mom will never reveal the recipe to as it is the Chinese takeout your aunt orders after a long day because her cooking is considered lethal in most states. Maybe home is drinking your favorite whiskey in a new zip code; nailing an old poster into a clean white wall; sinking into a mattress that hasn’t yet memorized the rhythm of anybody’s sleep cycle. Maybe creating a home is what makes it a home. Maybe buying a candle that smells like something I vaguely remember but can’t put my finger on will allow me to hold that familiarity in a jar and carry it with me wherever I go. Maybe not being afraid to truly occupy the space within these unfamiliar walls will allow me to inhabit it with every fiber of my being. Maybe that’s all homes are: empty spaces, and maybe it is up to us to inhabit them, fill them, remember them, build them, so one day, we can say they were the ones that built us.

Written November, 2015

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