I know that where a person is from and what place they consider “home” can be completely different, but I usually conflate the two because I associate “home” with what makes me feel like…well…me, and where you’re from is a big part of who you are, right? First, I think about where I was born (New Jersey). Then I think about where I grew up until age 14 (Maryland). Then, I think about where I went to high school and college (North Carolina). Then I think about eeeevvveerrrywhere I’ve lived since then, the friends I’ve made, and the experiences that have made me who I am now.
My parents are both from New Jersey. So I know that some of my habits and ways of speaking originate there. But I’ve never actually lived in NJ beyond age 1, so I tend to rule that out as “Home.”
Maryland is where a lot of my cliched TV moments happened. You know, those memories of riding your bike, and sledding down hills in the snow. It’s where I climbed trees and played tag and rode down the biggest hill in a friend’s neighborhood on a bike with questionable breaks. We also rode down the giant hill in his grandma’s backyard on his red wagon about a bazillion times and somehow managed not to kill ourselves. I made friends I thought I would have forever. I had my first crushes. I was bullied. I got ringworm and pneumonia. I was afraid to sleep in my room at night in my family’s first apartment because my nightlight cast a shadow on the wall that looked like a giant nose (don’t ask why this disturbed me so much — I still don’t know). I kicked a hole in the wall of our townhouse’s basement. I kept rabbits. I listened to cassette tapes on my Walkman while I peeled the wallpaper off the walls in my room at night. Maryland is where my family stopped being a family. Maryland is where I thought I’d always live.
But then there’s North Carolina. Where I went trick-or-treating for the first time, and became a goth for a few years. Where I cried the whole first week of high school because I missed my friends in Maryland and didn’t think I belonged that far south. Where I made fun of teachers who wore giant animal barrettes in their hair, and students whose book reports were actually just summaries of movies they’d seen. Where I made prank calls with my friends and had ridiculously intense feelings about everything. Where I grew much closer to my mom. Where I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time and laughed my ass off with my best friend, who looked so mean the first time I saw her but for some reason I was compelled to talk to her anyway, so I went over and asked her the time. Where I got my heart broken. A lot. Where I got my art stolen and the thief’s version got put on display. Where I found out some of my friends were gay and loved them so much for sharing it with me even though they’d been afraid to. Where I worked really hard in and out of school. Where I was made fun of for being an English major, but figured out that writing was the only thing I really cared about doing. Where I discovered my love for travel, and where I learned Japanese. Where I lost friends, and where I made new ones.
Then Louisville, KY and Houston, TX where mom and I lived, but neither place ever really felt like home.
Then Los Angeles where I was at my absolute worst in almost every way, but where I made two of the best friends I’ve ever made in my life. Where I learned to be a better writer, and reader, and that maybe the United States wasn’t where I was meant to be.
And now…I’m here.
I honestly think any place from your life can be home. For me, if I’m honest, home is more “who” than “where.” Home is all of my best friends. Home is Neal and Choko. Home is my mom. Home is inside my own head, heart, and memories. Home evolves.
But you carry it with you, wherever you go.