The idea of home is something I think of often. I find it fascinating because home means something completely different to everyone, and most of us take it for granted. A sense of home has intrigued me mostly because I can’t say I’ve ever felt it, but it’s something I’ve always been searching for. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been happy, safe, and very comfortable in the places I’ve lived over the years, and I know that makes me immensely privileged, but what I’m talking about here is the search for belonging, for the fire; for the love.
I use the word love, because love is what I’ve always envisioned home to feel like. You know that moment when you’re in love, and there is no where else you would rather be? No where else that feels this warm and cozy and right? I’ve felt this way periodically in the places I’ve lived, but then that feeling quickly disappears as I realise that I’ve outgrown it… just like all the romantic love I’ve encountered in my life. Funny how that works.
My constant search for belonging is rooted in my upbringing. I grew up in a small city in rural Canada, and like many small communities, the lifestyle there is very straight-forward (go to school, get a job in the field you studied for, buy a dog, buy a brand new SUV, relentlessly post about your dog and SUV on all of your social media outlets, get married to the second person you’ve ever loved, buy a house together, have a baby, constantly talk about your retirement plans even though you’re only 25… you get the point). Most people I grew up with happily settle into this lifestyle, but if you don’t, then theres not many other options for you. I always felt my only option for a life I could feel like myself in required me to move to a bigger city, so thats what I did.
What happened after I moved away was just more of the same in a different location. Although I met my absolute soulmate of a friend while going to school (hey there miss Lindsey!), I continued to feel extremely isolated, misunderstood, and increasingly frustrated with my surroundings. I blamed it on my environment, and I vowed to free myself of this lifestyle after I graduated. This time I was going to finally move somewhere that I was excited about… so yet again, thats what I did.
Then Vancouver happened. Ahh Vancouver- what a glorious, complicated, beautiful creature you are. I moved to this city, and within a few months I already felt more at home than anywhere else I had lived. I knew I felt this way because I was the best version of myself that I’d ever been- calm, relaxed, engaged, inspired, happy- all the things you want. But after about a year and a half of living this way… it was no longer enough.
So again, what does Jessica do when she doesn’t feel inspired? She moves. This time I was going to find it, guys! I was going to find that feeling of home, because I was going to find myself… or at least thats what I thought. I had a brilliant idea! I wasn’t going to simply move, I was going to travel… and just like that, I bought a one way ticket across the world, I gave away all my stuff, I quit my job, and I was a free woman once again; no longer constrained by my postal code.
Ooooooh friends, I could write 400 blog posts on what long-term travel teaches you about home, but I’ll spare you for now. What I will say is that I realised all of my previous ideas were completely wrong. Along my journeys, I came to understand that home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling you carry with you, and a sense of belonging comes from knowing yourself and consistently making choices (and surrounding yourself with people) who reflect those values. This means that the feeling of home isn’t attached to any particular place- it can be taken with you anywhere you choose! Amazing.
This new found information was life changing! Life! Changing! Man… I am a smart individual, no? I’m 23 years old and already have the secret to happiness. Look at me go! I don’t need to live somewhere that inspires me, I just need to inspire myself, because happiness is a choice. Game changer.
So, after all of my travels, I flew my broke-butt back to my home town and decided I was going to stay there for a while. Even though I had always felt super uncomfortable with the small town lifestyle, it was going to be completely different this time, because I was going to decide to be happy no matter my circumstances.
Well as you can imagine, this did not work at all, and I spent the majority of my time back home questioning every one of my life choices and silently crying in my car. Classic. The feeling of not belonging wasn’t that bad- I am used to that. It was the shame I felt for not being able to simply choose to be grateful and happy that was the most painful for me. “Happiness is a choice, Jessica! Look at your life- you have everything you could ever need, you just have to be grateful for it. Dammit, why is this so hard! What is wrong with me?”
I guess thats why I don’t often talk about searching for a sense of home- because not feeling like I belong anywhere has always come with a large amount of guilt and painful feelings of shame. I know that I have been blessed with one of the most free, safe, and beautiful lives that any person could ask for, and now I’m going to complain about it? Who do I think I am?… and why would anyone care about this?
Well it took me a long time to get here- but I care. These painful emotions I feel are both real and valid, and I don’t feel ashamed about saying that. I’ve accepted that searching for more doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate what you already have, it just means that you want more; It means that you believe you are worth more.
I’ve come to realise that a sense of belonging is something that everyone craves, and that learning to let go of the guilt and shame we have for feeling however we do is one of the hardest, most important journeys we all have to take.
You may live in paradise, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You may live a privileged lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that your struggles aren’t valid or important. You may know that happiness is both a choice, a practice, and a journey, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll always be happy. There are so many different factors that create a sense of home and overall happiness, and finding that balance isn’t simple. However, once you do- just like all emotions- that balanced feeling will only last temporarily.
Lindsey once told me that you will never know the lifestyle you need until you are actually living it. This realisation hit me so hard… because it’s true! You won’t know what need until you have it, and then you’ll grow, change, require more, feel lost again, find your sense home once more, grow again… there’s no end to this. This is life.
So I guess my constant search for home doesn’t make me an outcast or a lost soul, it’s just makes me alive– it means that I believe I am worth more than what is immediately in front of me – it means that I can just relax and remember that I may never stop searching, and my sense of home may continue to be fleeting, but that is life. Home means something different to everyone, but I have always found belonging in moments of growth, of change, of questioning – a lifestyle that I hope to never stop pursuing.
What does home mean to you?