I’ve been thinking a lot about home, and what home means to me, the last few days.

I believe it was prompted by this quote, for which I do not have attribution…

These places we call home, the communities that challenge and grow us, will exist long after we are gone. But never in the way we experience them today. It always seems there is a before and after, but really, our experience is always in the middle… after something it once was and before the thing it will become.”

So… what is home to me? The meaning has changed so many times throughout my life, I’ve really had many homes. The place where I grew up… the places I have lived and loved… the places I have only visited but connect with so deeply that they seem like home. And, when did my parents’ home stop being my home? That was the big one for me, growing up, a big shift in my thinking, realizing that when I went back to visit them, I wasn’t going home I was going to visit them at their home, where I grew up. What a change in thinking that is… and I don’t know if everyone experiences it. 

Would it be different if I had never left? If I had moved home after college and worked in the place where I grew up? Probably. 

But I didn’t do that. I stayed in Philadelphia, where I went to college, which honestly never felt like home to me. During those few years, when I went to my parents’ house, I still referred to it as “going home for the weekend”. The big change came when I became a travel nurse, and got to live and work in new places. Places I had always wanted to see… Northern California. Southern California. Seattle. It’s funny, the cities in CA were fun, but never home. But Seattle, and the entire Pacific Northwest, was the first place that I thought of as home other than my parents’ town. That was when my language shifted, when I started saying that I was coming “back for a visit” or “visiting [town]” instead of “coming home for Christmas”. 

I only lived there for 9 months, then relocated again to the east coast. I lived there for 2 and a half years, but it never felt like home. I never felt that sense of belonging, that this was the place for me. And so when I picked up and moved to Iowa (that was a change…) for more school? Well, let’s just say I was more surprised than anyone when I quickly started thinking of Iowa as home. Iowa? Seriously? The midwest? I loved the coasts, water, oceans… how could I think of a landlocked state, with nary an ocean in sight, as home? 

And yet I did. I had to leave there for a few years (more time out east… sigh…) before returning for a prolonged period of time, and the entire time I was away, it felt like something in my life was just, well, off kilter. I loved being near family, I loved seeing them on the weekends, but I wasn’t “home”. Finally returning to the midwest after 3 long years was like putting the final piece in the puzzle of my life. There have been other moves since then, but I am finally back and hope to be here for a good long time.

Anyway, all of that to say that the meaning of home for me has clearly changed over time. Those are just the places I’ve lived. There are other places I love – in the midwest, in the northeast – that I consider homes of my heart. Where I have traveled – sometimes for extended periods of time – but haven’t lived and worked. And yet, they call to me. I feel like I belong. My body takes a deep breath and I feel at peace, the way I do when I am home, now. 

Why do these places call to us? Why do some call to me, and others don’t feel the same connection I do? These unique connections to the places we feel at home.

There is a song in the movie Michael, sung by Bonnie Raitt, that often goes through my head. In the chorus, she sings: 

Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I’m on my way back where I come from.
Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I’m on my way back where I belong.

She’s singing about a person, about feeling at home with them. But to me, this is about places. Home, to me, is where I belong. 

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