On the drive back from hitch, when we pull off route 30 onto the windy road that leads to SCA headquarters, I am always filled with the sense of returning home: a warm, excited, relief. When I enter the house – first, through a front porch door where sits a broken-legged table, clothes hung to dry, and boots on the floor; then through a second door that leads into a dark living room with miss-matched couches and piles of outdoors gear – I don’t notice the mess or the smell at all. Because when you return home, perhaps it feels a bit colder than usual, but that vanishes and then it feels like nothing. It’s the ultimate sense of comfort, when there is nothing strange or noticeable about a place.
The idea of a home is instinctive to humans. We need to have that place of safe return. Of course, home takes many shapes and sizes, human to human, culture to culture, place to place. Some people live in mansions while others live in huts.
Home tells a lot about who you are and where you come from, which is why one of the first questions we ask is, “Where you from?” Their answer tells, at surface level, how similar or different you are from one another. We cling to what’s familiar, which is why freshmen in college are more likely to be friends with students from their hometown.
Recently, my definition of home was thrown into question. My parents sold my childhood house in Rhode Island and are moving into a condo in Mass. My whole family is in flux; one sister is getting married this week, another is six months pregnant, and another is in her junior year of college.
Maybe I’ve been away from home for too long, but my parents selling the house didn’t affect me in the way I thought it would. In ways, my college town, Pittsburgh, feels more like home than Rhode Island. Home has little to do with place and more to do with people and emotional memories. Even if I were to go back, neither Pittsburgh nor Rhode Island would be the same. Both worlds are gone. Maybe I would be more sentimental if I had any control over change, or if I actually wanted to go back, but I don’t. So how important is sentimentality in the end? My callousness might be a coping mechanism: my mind pruning certain emotions so I can still function in the moment.
Home is where my habitat is. I’ve called many places home this summer and almost none have had four solid walls. I recall a memory on Calamity Brook: Taylor and I woke up in the middle of the night to a heavy storm. A three inch puddle of water had gathered below our tent, turning our nylon home into a water bed at flood risk. I looked at him and said over thunder and rain, “I guess we’ll just have to make it through the night?” “I guess so,” he said. And we went back to sleep. Maybe the environment posed threats, but my sense of safety, that Taylor and I were in it together, remained.
For many, home changes at least once in life. In that way, humans are nomadic. SCA Headquarters won’t be my home for much longer. In two weeks, this world will be gone.
Then I’ll spend a couple weeks in my grandparents’ house before heading down to North Carolina to live and work on farms with Taylor. With more thought, the Adirondacks was never a static home, but an experience in constant flux and adaptation. I imagine that for some, home is never a place, but a continuous journey to find and uphold the self.
As I prepare to be on the move, I must make choices and take only what I’ll need, saying goodbye to most things. Now that all my belongings can fit in the trunk of a car, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of no return. This is it. I have to move on because there is nothing to go back to. I don’t have a cozy bedroom in my parents’ home anymore. There’s an inner struggle I can’t quite define. It’s the struggle of accepting what’s past and putting faith into the future. Of balancing what’s in and out of my control. Of taking big steps despite underlying self-doubt. Falling in love and afraid of love. Feeling lucky and not wanting to fuck up. Saying goodbye and actually meaning it.
In spite of all this soup-for-the-soul talk, home will live on. Home is in my running sneakers, my coffee mug, and my sleeping bag. In Rhode Island, Pittsburgh, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Colorado. In my sisters’ voices and my necklace with the Ohm symbol. Home is where the leaves change, where sea glass gathers, where everyone loves Friends. Home is at the smoking hipster bar with a pool table and all the places I went to write. Home is on the move. Home is in a 2007 Chevy and a Maine boy with a trucker hat. In a big promise with my pinky wrapped around.