'I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away. I don't know where my soul is, I don't know where my home is.'
—Nelly Furtado, I'm Like A Bird
My friend Draise has been on the move off and on for two years straight, most of that time away from family and old friends.
We were talking a couple months back and he asked me if I felt like Massachusetts was home. I said yeah, definitely. My family’s not up here and it’s been a struggle forming the same kind of deep friendships that I’m used to having back in Florida, but it does feel like home.
He said he hadn’t felt at home in a long time and it was obviously starting to get to him.
We all know home is where the heart is, but what if your heart's not where you are? The idea of home is a tricky thing. I never even thought about it until I moved out for the first time.
I, like Draise, grew up moving around a lot. It’s the common plight of missionary kids, army brats, and other nomadic youngsters. The thing is, I love it. I love moving around and I love traveling and I love change. So does Draise, obviously. But we all have our limits and I’ve found mine a few times.
What it comes down to, in my opinion, is that you’ve got to make home for yourself, in whatever way you can in whatever situation you’re in. It’s one of those things you’re probably not going to stumble into. It’s going to take work and you’re going to have to get aggressive about it.
For those of us who are always thinking about where we want to go next, or what could be around the next corner—we have to do that one thing that scares us most of all. We’re going to have to settle ourselves down, or at least act the part.
That’s why the Misses and I have decided to paint our new apartment. We just moved in the beginning of August and we’ve decided whether we’re here for a year or ten years, we’re going to treat this place like home. Come hell or high water. So we’re painting the bright off-white walls all manner of happy cheerful colors. We’re going to finally put up those photo frames we’ve kept in boxes for the last six years. We’ve dug out our barely-used wedding gifts: the bread-maker, the Chinese vase, the last supper relief sculpture, the angel snow-globe—the whole freaking lot of it.
So my challenge to you is this: wherever you’re at and whatever you’re doing, if you’re having trouble finding home, make one. And make it good. You never know how long you might be there. And if you end up leaving soon, will you regret the effort?
For a great guide on the practicalities of shaping the place you live into something that feels more like home, get a copy of Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan or check out apartmenttherapy.com, the website he started.
Update: We ended up living in that apartment eight and half years. We brought two of our three kids home from the hospital to that apartment (the third was born in Florida). We hosted dozens if not hundreds of dinners with our friends there. We never regretted putting some time and money into making it look a little nicer.
Photo: Lee Carson