When there is no immediate and automatic response to the question “where is home?” chances are you too have lived abroad most of your adult life. So what is home? “Home is where the heart is” the saying goes, doubtlessly in an effort to diminish in others their yearning for it whilst away. In my case home is not home at all. I live in a small, utterly unremarkable apartment in the largest city on earth and though I sleep there, the word ‘home’ implies rather more than that. Perhaps the reason for this strange detachment is that I spend endlessly more waking hours not being there than I do being there, and even whilst there I am not mentally there actively forging a bond to it as a place. Perhaps it is because I know this situation is inevitably transitory; just another place to sleep whilst I struggle to reach a point in my life where I could actually afford to create a true home – not a rented flat – and make it feel as such.
Nor do I feel particularly safe in my apartment. I must explain that my fear is not that a burglar will steal through my window in the night, but rather that although I pay rent to legally reside there, the apartment, the building it is in, the city in which it is in in turn, and indeed the very country in which I reside are not my home despite living and working there. I am a flying Dutchman, in the purest tradition of distant ancestors who, centuries ago, sailed unknown oceans in search of unknown lands. These men made their homes far away from “home” as well: South Africa, Indonesia, America, and as far as Tasmania – named for Abel Tasman – another flying Dutchman.
Home then for me, here and now whilst thinking about it, does not really exist. My parent’s home in the country whose flag adorns my passport as well as my birth certificate, is not truly my home – it is theirs. Whenever I return there I am hailed as ‘returning home,’ but the truth is that I am as much a guest as I am a family member – one of the idiosyncrasies of an adult familial relationship.
It is an odd sensation to be a visitor in one’s home country, but perhaps more odd still to be a guest (however loved) in your parents’ house. Still, theirs is the closest I now have to a home and a sense thereof. Thus arises a certain uneasiness – a feeling I cannot quite place – probably most akin to being lost at sea without a compass staring hopelessly at listless sails devoid of wind. I want a home. I have dwelt on the thought of a home, but for all my purposed creativity have never been able to imagine it just so. When I try to imagine it my megalomania usually seizes control in lieu of rational thought and I end up picturing a self-designed castle on a mountaintop filled to the brim with the most tasteful indirect lighting, marble statues of fictional warriors and a private harem of impossibly beautiful women. A realistic view, it seems, is utterly beyond me. Still, I have felt at home. I felt at home in a house which did not belong to us in during our time in Norway. I felt at home in my shitty apartment in the US. I felt at home even in Moscow in an apartment so perilously close to the head of government that a careless moment with a champagne bottle could have seen the trench-coat men of the FSB at our doorstep in moments inquiring as to the unusual attempt on the President’s life. Why then do I fail to feel at home in the first place I personally selected to live in? Is it that the four barren walls of my apartment are so close together than I feel trapped between them, or is it that Tokyo is too vast a city to feel at home in at all? What shameless decadence it is to be privileged enough to be able to afford a place to live in this world and yet not feel at home.


One response to “Home

  • kidspartyheaven

    Gosh, this really resonated with me.

    Very well written and explains simply a very complex feeling.
    My parents emigrated from UK to South Africa when I was ten, so obviously I went with them… did I have a choice? I spent eleven years longing for home and by 21 had scraped enough money together to return home.
    But when I returned I found that the only place I felt truly at home in was London, because of its cultural diversity, even though my childhood home was further north in Mansfield.
    I suggest that the real place you call home is not so much to do with the actual physical place but rather memories associated with small things bringing back intense emotions you may have felt there.For me I had an overwhelming urge to want to sit in a lawn filled with daisies and buttercups. For me that was home.

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