I think we have both physical homes and intangible ones.
The physical ones are easier to understand. I grew up on a farm in Waterford, Virginia and that’s where my roots are. This home is peaceful: surrounded by horses, trees and fresh air, it’s a space to think and relax.
Next up is Carnegie Mellon. The dorm that I live in doesn’t match the comfort of my farm, but it has a distinctive character. I’ve attempted to reclaim my small space as an RA as my own. If you ever saw my room from this last year, you could tell that I was expressing my philosophy of minimalism and my increasingly global perspective.
This summer I’ll be rooming with my dear old dad in a small studio apartment in the Upper West Side – a great base to explore the city. It’s a bare bones operation, but I think that suits the two of us well.
This tiny shared space has me realize something about how the physical home transforms.
When I’m on the farm in Waterford, everything is contained with the serene space of the home. I can read and nap on the couch, nurse a cup of coffee in the kitchen with a family member or grab a desk and get some work done. There’s room to breathe and but also room to share.
Once I leave the farm and head to Pittsburgh or NYC, that reality shifts. Sure, my studio apartment or my tiny dorm room is pretty self-contained: it has a bed, fridge, a desk. But I’ve realized that I’ve moved part of my home to more public places: I write in a coffee shop, I hang out with friends in a lounge, I read in the courtyard, or I alternate work between hidden spots and my room. I’ve had to export the function of home outside what I can claim as mine, and that’s an interesting concept to me. Everywhere I go, I’m participating in a “public” home.
What I’m looking forward to in NYC is finding where I can map my home in the city. Coffee shops, libraries, parks - they’re all an opportunity to form a new spot of home. What’s exciting about cities is that you never know if you are sharing a little spot of home with another: our occupation of the space outside our apartments and dorm rooms are only temporary and we may never run into our fellow “house” mate.
More than our physical homes, the intangible ones have become increasingly important. With family members who are often in different parts of the world - a summer in Malawi, a few weeks in Nepal, hanging out in San Francisco - rooting our communal sense of home in something physical is doomed to fail. As much as older generations bemoan the pervasive role of technology in our lives and the dependency on connectedness that it’s created, it’s allowed my family to forge a virtual home through emails, texts, and tweets.
Home is an intriguing concept – we only really notice it when it experiences a transformation. Often this transformation happens as we move from one stage to the next, like moving out of the dorm room in which you’ve spent a year laboring. I think there is much to be said about taking a moment and thinking, “What is my home right now?”. Regardless, I’m just glad to have one.