Post- Magazine

notes on the possibility of home [lifestyle]

on trying to comfort in new spaces

My head fits into the groove between my mother’s shoulder and neck as though I was born out of her collarbone, and I often wonder how where I come from decides where I go. I am shaped so strongly by the spaces to which I belong—places are sculptors, and I am their stone to chisel— and yet, I struggle to define belonging. I’m trying to figure out what “home” means, so that I can learn more about how I’ve become the person I am. Here’s some notes from the process.  

1. I like to think that I am more than the cities I’ve been to and the people that come with each, but the truth is, I wouldn’t be me without them. There’s no way to separate my changes and the roots of my belonging from the places where they’ve taken place. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I’d like to learn what it’s like to be myself regardless of the environment. I’d like to not need context clues to define my own identity, and I’d like to know who I am even when I don’t know where I’m going. Maybe home is the capacity to understand oneself? That seems unlikely. 


2. Settling into a new place means adjusting to lots of smaller new spaces. I spend a lot of time just trying to figure out where I am (often relative to whatever tall building my eyes land on); in order to get to somewhere new, I go out of my way towards something I recognize and reorient from there. It takes longer and requires excessive patience, but it’s nice to be somewhere familiar, even if it’s just for an instant. It’s exhausting to channel so much energy into just the process of trying to be able to recognize places—and I am tired—but it’s an important step in the process of settling. Maybe home is a space made up of a sense of familiarity? No, that can’t be it. There’s more. 

3. I try to enjoy the uncertainty of it all. I take the time (when I’m not lost) to discover new classrooms, towers, and buildings. Each new activity takes me to the corners of a campus that feels so small and yet will always somehow be filled with something I haven’t yet experienced; It’s uncomfortable but somehow energizing. The newness of it all is distracting, and long walks through short neighborhoods serve as a way to escape the anxiety of not yet belonging. It’s easy to put pressure on myself and fall into spirals of unfounded self-criticism just because I don’t yet feel at home, but it might be more concerning if I already did. I don’t know what it means to belong, either. I don’t think anyone possibly can. Maybe home is where you don’t feel the need to belong? I’ll consider it. 

4. I fall back onto the past for comfort. I repeatedly text friends pictures of beautiful places while trying to reassure myself that the decisions I have made are the right ones; it’s so much easier to forget unsettled feelings when there are pretty things to look at. I call my parents and complain about the work I have to do, and I can imagine them rolling their eyes at the absurdity of my thinking process. We talk about the weather back home and the cleanliness of my room often. They encourage me to be absolute in my choices and to wait for feelings of security to come to me rather than chasing them. I know they’re right, but it’s hard to focus on anything except grounding yourself when you’re shifting into a new life. Maybe home is the people you fall back onto? It’s possible, but I’m not so confident. 

5. When I run into pauses in this schedule of exploration, uncertainty, and phone calls, I find myself staring at the still-empty walls of my new room. I brought decorations with me— countless posters, photos, paintings, pictures, envelopes, letters—but I can’t find the time or energy to hang them up. In spending all my minutes searching for a concept of home, I neglect the opportunity to build my own. There’s a part of me that hesitates to settle into this new space, too, and I don’t know why. I think it has to do with a fear of having to detach from old places if I attach to new ones. It’s easy to pretend that the past was safer than it actually was when the alternative is a present whose path you have no knowledge of. Maybe home is nostalgia: a state of reminiscence? I hope not. 

Sometimes, I try to sort through my notes on possible definitions of home, and I can’t help but laugh when I do. It feels insane to be trying to find comfort in this new place by trying to convince myself that I am doing the right things, but it also feels like there’s no other options. Newness, for me, comes with an unfiltered desperation to resolve. I want to be able to introduce myself without the fact that I am new to this school, but I feel obligated to do so because of the remote possibility of being provided a solution, or perhaps advice for the process of building a new home. 


I believe, though, that these notes accidentally highlight another aspect of home without identifying it: maybe there’s more comfort to be found in the indefinability of this state of “home” than anywhere else in the process. If home doesn’t fit any of the above categorizations, it fits perfectly with the idea of absence. I am most at home in the places I call home because I’ve grown slowly into them, as though filling space with my own changes in composition. Without even noticing, I stretch to occupy whatever empty space I am allowed in and weave into the environment. Home is sudden: it’s a feeling of missing something and longing for belonging and being stuck in uncertainty until it suddenly isn’t. Suddenly, I have the energy to put posters on the walls, and familiarity floods the streets as though it’s been gathering, plotting, and building up the entire time. 

Maybe my head fits so perfectly alongside my mother’s arm because we share an absence. 

Maybe home is an empty space that I’ll grow to occupy. Maybe this is right. 

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