#010 What Does it Mean to Stay Home? (Travel - 4)
An Appreciation for Not Going
I want to spend some time on the advantages of staying home, but, unfortunately, I don’t exactly know what it means. Technically, I’ve lived in places long enough to claim them as my home, but I never felt as if they were my home.
I searched a couple of scholarly databases on home, but I didn’t find anything that addressed the basics. Perhaps it’s a cultural assumption that we all know what it is.
I understand that home doesn’t have to be a place. I’ve experienced all types of homes. Home can be a person or a set of circumstances. It can be a practice.
However, I want to talk about the kind of home that’s rooted in a physical location—the kind that makes people warm and fuzzy with nostalgia and helps them define their identity (“I’m a New Yorker” or “I’m a Chicagoan”).
I can’t speak to the identity part of it, at all. I struggle to even understand loyalty to sports teams.
I know comfort and familiarity, though. I might not have a home community, but I like being indoors. In many ways, I find it just as adventurous as being out. I travel inwards with meditation and writing. I placate my cat, do yoga, workout, take baths, read books, eat, watch tv, play Chess and Scrabble, etc.
I feel free to be myself. I imagine that a home community is a lot like that, except your playground is expanded beyond your walls.
Staying in a community for a long time means that we get to practice living there, and when we practice something, we get better at it. We gain competence and confidence, so we concentrate on other things, like supporting the community or building a family.
It also just feels good. I always get a little dopamine hit when I have an especially firm grasp on a situation, but maybe that’s only because I so rarely have a firm grasp on anything.
I’ve lived in places long enough where it seems like I should’ve been completely comfortable with everything in them, but I can’t stay that I was. I think this is linked to the identity part that I don’t fully understand. I never felt inextricably linked to the people around me. For that reason, I mostly define home by what it isn’t, rather than what it is.
I’ve been homesick for most of my life. Even before my family left California when I was eleven, I spent a lot of time in the houses of relatives because my mom was in mental institutions. No matter how nice or fun the alternate place was, I always desperately wanted to go home.
The mantra, “I want to go home,” still loops somewhere in the back of my mind. My brain can’t name my home and then move onto the next thought, so it starts over in a confused, broken way, like a scratched record.
Now that I live in Japan, the mantra at least has something real to whine about. Japan is more not home than any other place I’ve lived before.
Now, my home is America, but America is a big place. It’s also a diverse place with many locales that are very, very different from one another. If I try to get specific about where exactly home is, then the mantra goes back to its old confusion.
I think it’s always been especially hard for me, personally, to not have a home. Part of it is what I look like. I’m Asian American, which means I grew up being asked relentlessly, even aggressively, where I’m from. Sometimes, that question was lobbed at me as a form of intentional bullying.
I feel awkward even when people ask innocently because of the assumption that’s embedded in it (that I’m not American, but foreign), but also because it also dredges up all the pain of my uprootedness.
Japanese people often ask me the same question, but it feels fine. I might look Asian American in America, but here, I look like a regular white foreigner, and I’m happy to be that here. When someone acknowledges my foreignness in Japan, it boils down to this exchange:
“Would you like me to treat you like you have no clue what’s going on, right now?”
And, to that I say, “Yes, please!”
I’d much rather be treated like an idiot than end up with a water cooler installed in my living room (true story).
If I wanted Japan to be my home, that’d be a much bigger problem, but as it is, having everyone around me acknowledge that I’m not home makes the anti-homeness of it way easier.
When I move back to the US, I hope to have a new appreciation for it as my home and maintain my appreciation long-term.
Please tell me more about home. What does it mean to you? Do you have one? Where is it? What do you love about having a home? Let me know in the comments.
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This week, I’ve most enjoyed reading the book The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck.