On The Way To Home

“It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home, 
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam 
Afore ye really ’preciate the things ye lef’ behind, 
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind. 
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be, 
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury; 
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king, 
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything…”
— Excerpt from “Home,” by Edgar Albert Guest


Where is home? What does it look like?

I’ve been thinking of these things as I pack for a move with a date that is “to be determined.”

I was talking with someone recently who felt like they had to own a typical American single-family home. Home looks like a house for this person.

In a different conversation with someone else, the other person said that they were in love with tiny homes and wished they could buy one.

A third person I know enjoys living in apartments and may do so until they retire.

Home looks like something different for all of us, but at its essence, it’s wherever you feel at rest and at peace, not necessarily a physical place: there have been times I’ve felt most at home staying on friends’ couches in small spaces decorated with laughter.

Home doesn’t have to be a certain square footage or have a certain number of bedrooms. And yet, sometimes we can get caught up in these ideals of what home “should” look like. It should be a single-family dwelling, or it should be perfectly decorated, or it should be a place that impresses all of our family and friends.

Growing up, I lived in over 20 very different homes by the time I reached adulthood. And one thing I noticed is that (to me) these places were chosen in part because they represented or fulfilled ideals of home, not necessarily a practical need. One larger home represented the attainment of the “white picket fence” dream, but the burdens of costly maintenance and upkeep weren’t necessarily thought through. A certain smaller home reflected a yearning for a simpler lifestyle, even though the home itself was not a good fit for its owner.

There’s a cliche saying, “home is where the heart is.” But I think “home is where your heart is” would be a more accurate statement. Don’t let society, or friends, or your own personal guilt of what you “should” have define what home is to you. Take on the amount of financial responsibility for a dwelling that you feel comfortable with, not what someone else would feel comfortable with.

So if you too find yourself in the middle of a transition, ask yourself: what is “home” to me?  Does it fulfill an unrealistic ideal or a practical need? What do I really need to be at home? And what can I do without?

Note: This renting vs. buying calculator is fascinating! Find it on the NYT’s website here.

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Poem excerpt obtained from poetryfoundation.org

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