Over the last 15 years, I’ve lived in one home for a decade and moved five other times. Most of those moves have taken places over the last three years since I left Chicago for Los Angeles. When I “go home” that means I’m going back to the place where I grew up, and for me, that means Chicago. My apartment in Chicago is the place I experienced almost every significant event of my adulthood: marriage, divorce, coming out, then sickness and health. (I never did do things quite according to plan.)
In Chicago I was offered my first job in publishing and my first contract to publish my own written work. In Chicago my mother, brother, grandmother, and infant cousin are buried. In Chicago I still have boots and coats, gloves, and enough books to keep me entertained for weeks should I be snowed in during a visit. I even have a pretty well-stocked kitchen (tool-wise, not food!) and of course… yarn.
When I visit home, it’s like taking a trip in a time machine. The memories are so real. The rooms and the streets, stores, and restaurants are all alive with memory. Since I moved to LA well into adulthood, I have dozens of friends and people who I consider family there, so every visit is an opportunity to reconnect with people whose bonds time and distance have not weakened.
When I lived in Chicago, I volunteered every week for four hours (sometimes more) for seven+ years with children who had special needs, many of whom were technology dependent. I keep in touch with many of the children I worked with and visit them on occasion when I go home. This most recent visit home I was able to attend a birthday party for a little boy whose life story, family, and journey are so miraculous that every birthday deserves a ticker-tape parade. There is so much in richness at home, so much life.
I say that but then I board the plane. I go back to my sunny apartment. To a life devoid of old friends, and places I have been going for years, things I have relied on for decades to define, comfort, and entertain me. I play with my nieces—the new family that brought me west. I settle into the bed, read the books, and explore new restaurants that are becoming trusted favorites. When I’m home, I text the people back in LA how much I miss them. When I’m in LA, I text people in Chicago the very same things.
In moving to Los Angeles, I discovered something about home. Unlike the dozens of books I could not box up and drag to LA, home is something I have taken with me everywhere I have gone. While going home is comforting, familiar, and full of joy, the new opportunities in a new place are just as important and motivating… which is why every time I board the plane and head home, I do eventually pack up and head back west.
I find that I’m less attached to objects (although let’s be real, my 10-year old King size pillow top bed in Chicago is SO superior to my barely-better-than-a-sleeping-roll Ikea mattress in LA) but I am equally attached to my old life and my new life. In fact, the constant in both lives is me, and I feel grateful that no matter where I am, I am . And in that sense, anywhere I’m comfortable and safe, happy and motivated is a place I can feel at home.
Where do you feel most at home? What little comforts can you not live without? Have you ever had to make tough decisions about leaving things, people, places behind?