forest-423203_640In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home,” and she travels from Oz back to Kansas only to learn that she never really left the farm in the first place. Highly esteemed people have expressed their thoughts about home, including Pliny The Elder (“Home is where the heart is”), Le Corbusier (“A house is a machine for living in”), and Maya Angelou  in All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”). In a globally mobile world where everyone is from somewhere else, I have often wondered — What does home mean to me? Is it a place, a structure, a person, or a feeling?

“Where are you originally from?”

That is usually one of the first questions we ask when we meet new people, and so begins the process of making sense of them. Such questions are ways to define place-specific identities. They are convenient, stereotypical, and flawed. It cannot completely convey who we are because we are complex, multi-layered individuals. For instance, I have friends who have lived in the same house all their lives, and their notion of home is tied strongly to experiences in, around and of it. For me, however, home is not only a place.

I lived in my birthplace for 16 years. While there, I remember moving  in and out of at least five homes, three of them prominent in my memory as featuring the same people. Most of these people are “no maintenance” — we seldom speak, but when we connect, it’s as if we never left. Nostalgic home.animal-15313_640

In my high school years, we moved, and that brief stint is memorable because I was discovering who I was and not yet comfortable in my own skin. Uneasy home.

Then I left for college, became an architect, and met the love of my life. Forever home.

I studied abroad, and in my six months there, despite a language barrier, met the most generous people. Lost in translation home.

My parents’ home is where I feel at ease, taken care of, and even today enjoy a little piece of my childhood. Comfort home.

While completing a Masters in Architecture, I was unprepared for the rigor of the American education system. I would do a lot of things differently if I went back. Do-over home.

My first job took me hundreds of miles away. Over the decade that I lived there, I got married (to the love of my life!), had kids, and got laid off from work. My friends from Albania, Egypt, India, Iran, Pakistan, Taiwan, and the US taught me to celebrate differences. Home away from home.

Now, here, I have a family of friends. Home again.

In the words of Hermann Hesse, “One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.” I have made a home, friends, and memories in each place I have lived. For me, home is where I can be comfortable, grow, and broaden my perspective alongside family and a community of caring friends.

One place has not offered everything, but there are moments in each place when I do get it all.

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