They say that home is where your heart is.
They also say that home is all about location, location, location.
What if my heart is floating between the dunes of the Sahara?
Being a Third Culture Kid means that it’s quite natural for people like me to feel divided between all the places they call home and to subsequently struggle when designing a “stable” home for their future. On the other hand, people like my husband who were “born and raised” in one place may face the opposite conflict: if home can only mean one place, how can they possibly leave it to explore the globalized world?
These are two sides of the same coin. In essence, many of us tie our idea of home to a specific place, and this can either contribute to our feeling of eternal displacement, or can cause us to feel tormented by every change that comes along the way.
How does your family let go of a physical apartment or house? Some of you may not know, because it hasn’t happened in your lifetime. Others might have moved so often that you’ve developed a very precise ritual.
I’ve had to let go of 15+ physical homes in my life. I’m 27. You do the math. Over time, I developed the habit of hugging walls hello and goodbye. When we stepped into a new place, it was “Hello home! Thank you for keeping us all together!” And, on the way out, it was “Goodbye home! May you bring luck to whoever comes next!”
It hurt, but it also taught me a valuable lesson: every space I left was just as painful to leave behind as the one before it. This meant that every space was equally loved. Instead of feeling like I was losing something I loved, I learned to expect that something new to love will soon be at my fingertips. Home is not a place. Home is love. You can take that with you wherever you go.
When people entered any of the homes my mother made, they always had the same reaction: “Yum! It always smells so good in here!” or “Oh! It always feels so good to be here!” I spent many years of my life trying to mimic that feeling with scented candles, freshly baked bread, living plants, etc. Nothing really did it for me, because what I was missing was energy. Then, she came over for a few months and my space was filled with that feeling. What was the difference? She connected the dots for me, and I realized that my home needed to be recharged with that love every single day.
Since then, people walk into my home and say “mmm… If I was blindfolded and brought here, I’d know whose home it is!”
Because home is a feeling.
Rumi wrote: “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.”
Wherever you are, make the most of what you’ve got. If home, the place, feels so far away that you can barely remember it, find a thread and weave it into the fabric of your life. When I feel too far away, I bake some zaatar bread and blast Palestinian folk music. I play some Armenian Duduk. There’s nothing quite as powerful as music and food to bring us home.
Some of us come from places that don’t exist anymore. Even if we were to travel back to the exact spot where we were raised, we would find only ruin. But, if home is a feeling, what can destroy that?
Find a thread and weave it in.
And if home, the place, is right at your fingertips and you’re about to leave it behind to seek out new horizons for your family, take a thread with you.
For me, the thread I carried between countries was one my mother created. When I was young and we were once again leaving a place I loved, we were preparing our goodbyes at the Dead Sea. You can see the stars very clearly from that low point in the world. My mom pointed at the three stars of Orion’s belt and said: “No matter where we are, as long as we’re together, we’re home. And if we aren’t together, but you can see those three shining stars, know that the three of us are nearby, and you are always home.”
And so, it seems I can create home wherever I go… as long as I don’t cross the equator 😉
Find a thread and weave it in.
And remember… we design our own luck!