Last Christmas, as I pulled up to my apartment at the time after a week at my parents' spent celebrating and sprawling in front of the fire with a book for pretty much every waking moment, I remember surprising myself as the thought it's so good to be home flashed through my consciousness. I had lived away for about five years by that point, but had never really truly felt like my new life and space and world was totally mine. Truthfully, I felt kind of homeless, as my parents had been quick to convert my room to a guest room (which my brother promptly took over during his visits home from college) and stow my belongings and mementos in the attic. I'd been sleeping on the couch or sharing my sister's twin-size bed for a couple of years when I'd visit (actually, that's still how it goes, unless my brother isn't visiting). Arriving to my apartment last year and feeling like it was "home" was an unexpected reality.
And it wasn't that I minded feeling without home, as I had been eager to have my own space, unaware of the mental transition that would require. Like most nineteen-year-olds, I had been eager to have an apartment with roommates and a room of my own and the independence I expected from that. And that's mostly how it went. At what would have had to be Christmas 2007, I had arrived back after a short visit to my parents' to find our front door ajar and all of our belongings ransacked. Needless to say, I wasn't any too hesitant to want to be somewhere else for Christmas in 2008. Along the same lines, having had my car stolen a few times in the last few years only adds to my lack of connection to actual physical places and things.
This year, I managed about a five day visit for the holidays. I spent less time in front of the fire this time, something I now kind of wish I would have handled a little differently, but since I don't believe in regrets, pretend I didn't say that. Before that, I had been couch-hopping, more or less, for a few weeks, as I had taken a job housesitting and then gave up my room in my current living situation as a guest room for a few days (I'm a live-in nanny of sorts, so the family I live with had extended family coming to visit). I didn't realize until today how very soothing and refreshing and comforting it is to me to be in my own bed in my own space in my own rhythms. Last night was the first night I had been in my own bed in a few weeks, and I woke up feeling more like me than I have lately.
So this home thing. This place where I am now is home...for now. The actual physical location of my residence has changed a half dozen times in the last five years, so it's not so much the setting, I don't think. My favorite part about camping is setting up my tent and sorting out my belongings, and at the end of the day retiring to MY space. I prefer not to share a tent for this reason. As a child, I was most satisfied building forts or pretending boxes were castles, spending endless hours camped out on the lawn across from my brother's identical box. I don't even remember what we did other than that I relished the satisfaction of having my own corner of the world. In that corner, I don't have to be anything to anyone else, a pressure I realize I put on myself in the hubbub of daily activity. I guard that place and that time, and that feeling of home. I need a place where I'm not influenced by the opinions and expectations of others, however self-perceived they may be.
All this to say...today I was made aware of just how special my home is to me these days.