It’s been a while.

It’s not that I’m not interested in writing, or wanting to neglect you, dear Blog, but did I tell you I’m working on my MFA?  My apologies, dear Blog, but I’ve had a hard time fitting you into my schedule.  Anyway, I think I’ve found a free few hours in which to write.

It’s been wild, dear Blog. Wild.  Crazy busy and intense.  I’m learning a lot, not only in my schoolwork, but in my life as well.  This year has been incredibly challenging, but also incredibly wonderful.  I’ve learned a few hard lessons, but I have a new appreciation for the simple things, and have learned to have faith that everything will come together.  I know how lucky I am. I know that it’s okay to let things go that aren’t serving me as well as they could without knowing what’s coming, in order to make room for possibility. You can’t stop change from happening, try your best to enjoy the current moment. You can never go back.

Which leads me to my theme.  Home.  I am currently visiting my parents, in Hanna, Alberta, after having lived two semesters in Waterloo, Ontario.  It is strange to be back here, a place I’ve missed and longed for since I left last July.  I thought my longing would finally be appeased, even if only temporarily.  The funny thing is that now I miss Waterloo.

The idea of home is something that sneaks up on you.  Two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have called Waterloo home, now I call it that almost every day.  When did Waterloo become home?  Will I always long for the place I cannot be?

What exactly is “home”? Is it really even tied to location?  Is it where your family is, your friends, your boyfriend?  Is it a place that only exists within your heart, or (worse), your memory?  Can you ever go home? Can you ever BE home? I’m starting to think that only those who have never left home really have a home. (But even that is problematic.  What about the passing of time?)  Do you only know what home is once you are away?  Do you have to leave for home to even exist?

I’m also preparing for my Shantz Internship, which is coming up VERY soon here, May 15th.  I am going to Cologne, Germany, to work with Alexandra Bircken for six weeks. (Very exciting!) I will have a little more than a week once I get back to Waterloo to get everything ready to go to Germany.  The funny thing, (and I really feel terrible admitting this) is that while I am very excited and really want to go on my internship, I kind of don’t want to leave Waterloo. Go figure.

I am using this summer to study this idea, as it applies to myself.  I have four places I will be this summer, and four ways they relate to home:

  • Waterloo, Ontario, Canada – This is my physical home, where I currently reside. (Although there are things going on here- I just found out that my landlord is selling the house, so I’m evicted- won’t have an apartment to return to when I get back from Europe. But I’ll deal with that later. “Have faith that everything will come together.”)
  • Hanna, Alberta, Canada – My where-I’m-from home, where I grew up and where my parents still live.
  • Cologne, Germany – A completely new place for me. This is a temporary place for me, may never be described as home.
  • the Netherlands – A mythical home for me.  My father’s side of the family is from the Netherlands.  I have roots there, and so have had a mythical idea of this place in my head for all of my life.  I’ve never been there.

I am curious to hear what others think the concept of “Home” is.  Is it a physical location? A country?  A town? A house? A state of mind?  Family? Friends? A lover? Is home familiarity? Routine? Comfort? Longing? Is the word “home” only a way of approaching how we treat a place? Is home in your blood? Can home be a place you’ve never been? Is home your past? Does it only exist within yourself?  Does home even exist at all?

All I know is that you can never really go home (but I will always want to).

13 Replies to “Home”

  1. Hi Jen:
    What I’m learning about home (and I’m having just EXACTLY the same questions you are) is that it exists wherever I am. Anywhere I am. There’s a really good TED talk by Pico Iyer about home: https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home?language=en. Check it out. My own journey to discover what/where home is has been heartbreaking, but I find that broken things can be stronger at the healed breaks. Good luck! You’ll find out what home is to you and then you’ll always know.

    1. I don’t know if you can have a journey to discover what home is without it being somewhat heartbreaking. In my case, I’m surprised how surprised I am. Missing Waterloo- what is THAT about? Home really does sneak up on you- I bet you’ll miss Edinburgh when you leave.

      Thanks for the TED talk!

  2. To be frank, my parents sold my childhood home in Fort St John B.C. a couple years after I moved out to Vancouver, but their next homes in Saskatchewan felt more like home than my next and final visit to my hometown. All the trappings were there, all the comforts and routines. Less so when my Dad died. Gone when my Mom died. Vancouver where I lived for many many years then moved away from wasn’t home, neither was Toronto, not the intensive pitstop of Kitchener. I have no home (though I do like to go home to my cat, very key). But all of these places and even LA (which I pine for) and others have people that I absolutely love and love to see.

    1. Thanks, Robert. I gather from this that it’s more about connection with people and belonging for you? Having someone (even a cat) expecting you?

  3. For me, home is a feeling of being yourself at the individual level, group level, and even societal level. If I may demonstrate:

    Looking at this from a ‘micro’ perspective, home is being able to be yourself – completely evocative of your true nature. When you are able to be content and not feel like you’re walking on eggshells and you’re able to be yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, that is home. You carry this with you in your interactions and travels which leads me to the second part.

    An anthropologist might say home is wherever you find kinship. For me that is in my siblings and parents. Again, you should be able to remain yourself around them, vice versa. Although we have all moved out and no longer live under the same roof, when we talk, reminisce, laugh, share, it feels like home.

    Lastly, on the societal level, you also have attachments – I believe – to the city and country you have physically lived in the longest. I always say I am a ‘homebody’ because I never really desire to leave Saskatoon. For a lot of people, travelling the world is high on their list of priorities and I get that. But for me home is familiar. I can navigate it and find outlets like sports leagues, a walk by the river, or even ethnic restaurants that help me support and ‘live out’ or externalize who I am in the world. Maybe this is why when people travel and find another tourist from where they come from they’ll chat or end up traveling together. The familiarity they bring with their language, appearance and even Mannerisms could elicit feelings of ‘home’.
    For all of these levels I’ve found that just as darkness could be the absence of light, home could be that abstract entity that like you said exists when are away from it (whether physically or emotionally) and therefore feel ‘home sick’.

    Thanks for letting me share! Don’t know if it’ll be of any use but I found it a good experience to reflect.

    1. Thank you very much, Rachel. I think you’ve hit some very powerful points here. I’m looking for all the input I can get, as I think it’s a little different for everybody. A feeling of being yourself, being ‘at home,’ is a level of comfort.

      Your mention of traveling and how people find comfort in people similar to themselves (even if only by location) is interesting. I want to hug everyone in Waterloo who has an Alberta license plate on their car (few and far between). When I lived in Montreal, I would start talking to anglophones in public for no reason other than that they spoke my language. Germany will be interesting.

  4. Do your parents still live in the house you grew up in? Nelson’s mom still does and when they talk about “home” they mean her house. My parents split up as I was leaving home for the first time, so it’s like I can’t go back, but I start feeling like I’m “home” by Canmore or Banff on the drive, and I feel like Jasper is mine, too. And maybe a big chunk of rural Alberta near Innisfail and Sylvan Lake, because my grandma lived there. It’s strange. I’ve thought about this a lot in the last few years, like when I moved here and people kept asking where I was from, and I didn’t want to say Calgary, but I was kinda from there, you know? And then I felt like I was straddling Winnipeg and Calgary for a long time. Part of being a part of a place I think is exploring it and participating in its culture, and I have never been much of a participant because of my anxiety. It takes a lot of work. After I graduated from ACAD I made a concerted effort to try not to hate Calgary for about a year. It actually worked to some degree. I never felt that animosity for Winnipeg, so it’s been different, but I was too busy to really explore. As for literal homes, I’ve been in the same apartment for about three years, and it does feel comforting and homey, I guess.

    P.S. That really sucks that you’re getting evicted, after all that crap with the flooding. Hope that all works out.

    1. Thanks, Lindsay. Yes, my parents still live in the same house that we moved into when I was twelve, twenty years ago. They’re settled here. Not leaving any time soon. This is where I’m from, where I grew up, but it’s not really my home anymore.

      I feel like I own a few places, too, like the Crowsnest Pass. That’s home too, although I’ve never actually lived there, other than a couple of residencies. Calgary was home before I moved there too, because it was the major city closest to Hanna, we used to go to shop, go to hockey games and whatever. ACAD was home more than any place, I think, although it’s not any more because I no longer belong there. The studios at UWaterloo are home now, the closest I have to a home base right now and for the next few months, at least.

      The apartment situation will work out, it can’t not work out. I’m going to do my best not to worry about it until I have to.

  5. I feel like the question of home is one I’m always asking myself these days (most likely due to my position as a twenty-something). I feel as though Home is composed of both fantasy/longing, as well as something much more tangible and directly experienced. I’ve had many instances of longing to be somewhere I belong, somewhere where I seem to fit and make sense with the rest of the world. I have also felt a feeling of Home within my childhood home, as well as been in a friend’s apartment and felt as though I were home. To be honest, however, I have stopped worrying about whether or not I belong. I belong wherever I can wiggle myself in.

    I feel like home is the absolute version of peace and comfort. A place where you have your routines, things you like and where you like to have them, without any conflict. Home is safe from the terrible things outside in the world. Home is where everyone works to the same rhythm. Home also contains routine, but positive routine. Home is not violent or hostile.

    So, I guess in relation to my own journey I am always striving to feel like I can be at Home. Or, to create a Home environment, where everything is comfortable and stress-free. And most of all, creating Home is somewhere that you feel accepted and loved. Home is inclusive.

    Well, that’s my hugely idealistic version of Home. I feel that there could be alternative definitions that also contain the conflict that does happen within homes – However, I feel that these moments are more about moments when Home is a clashing of sensibilities. In these instances, there is a need to re-negotiate what home is. Maybe there’s a bit of Ranciere in that explanation. Blame grad school.

  6. Well I’ve had the advantage of reading all the others first, and it’s comforting to know other people feel as confused as I do. I’ve at times thought it was a difficult question where are you from, but then I was seamlessly born and raised in Calgary.
    As I’ve traveled the world I’ve struggled to know where I wanted to end up. It has been worse in recent times because I’m embarking on a life long career and commitment to something I wholeheartedly love and believe in. So the question of home has an obsessive quality of finding the perfect place to set my up life in. I guess home for me has always been directed more towards the future.
    Despite all efforts to the contrary Calgary has always felt like “the big home in my mind eyes” to me. The struggle comes really from my family. My parents being not very well makes it difficult for me, as I would happily spend the rest of my days in a subtropical environment. So home becomes the place where I feel responsibility. Mostly to support my parents yes, but also the land. I want to give something back to land that raised me, to the prairie grasses and to the ancestors that have come before me.
    Somehow lately I feel a sense of peace that I didn’t before. I love London, but I’ve been here long enough that it doesn’t feel like the ultimate home to me. But at this moment in time it is my home, and I love what I’m doing, even if at times it is lonely and difficult. But then Calgary doesn’t feel like my ultimate home either, just the next step in my journey, in series of homes. And realising that there is no one ultimate home, that I don’t have to be trapped anywhere forever is what comforts me. Although I still long for a sense of community, I recognise that it can be an evolving thing.

  7. I grew up in Calgary. The first time I ever really left for something other than temporary travel was right after finishing my BFA, in pursuit of my BEd. The University program setup homes for students to reside while on distant practicums. A place for us to eat, sleep, and plan for the next day. A place that had to be shared with the current home owner and other students. The experience was both exciting and difficult. Leaving my home was strangely not difficult, but adjusting to someone else’s was. New rules, new surroundings, new people, a new life essentially. Add that to the commutes back and fourth between ‘home 1’, ‘home 2’, and ‘home 3’ (Calgary, Lethbridge, and Brooks, respectively), living out of a suitcase, and never settling down for anything more than a week created a refreshing yet exhausting experience that I won’t soon forget. It was this experience of being unsettled, and constantly in a transient state that ultimately launched my current body of work. As serious as all of the above may have sounded, there really was something beautiful and comical I found in getting lost in these new spaces and places. Somehow, places that were only a couple hours from home felt like different countries, with different languages. The signage, the roadways, the people, the way of life – all new to me, yet all something that as an Albertan I felt that I had been obligated to know yet had somehow never experienced any of it. It wasn’t until my U of L days that I actually met a real cowboy, not just some guy in a hat and blue jeans at the Stampede. A REAL cowboy. And then there was the time I freaked out in excitement when I saw my first tumbleweed on the road (I’d only ever seen them before in Fievel Goes West)! New friends at the time quickly discovered how much of a city boy I was. Now when I go back to these places with my ‘city friends’, they get really excited about the same things I got excited about, and I realize just how weird I must have appeared to others who called these places home. But the reverse is also true – the ‘small town friends’ would always tell me of how disappointed they were when they’d drive into the city, not lock their car doors, and come back to a crime scene. To me locking your doors is just something that you do, but to them, the thought had never crossed their minds until the evil deed had happened.

    So what is home then? Is it the place you grew up in, the place where you know what to expect? The place you are comfortable? Can it really just be a feeling? An ideal? A state of mind? The list goes on and on really. The more I try and answer what home is, I never find one, but instead a seemingly endless loop of possibilities. That might not help at all, but I’m happy to announce that I’ll be at Gushal this summer, back in the Southern Alberta territory that started it all, in an attempt to find the answer. Part of me doesn’t think I ever will, but I’m excited to try and find it.

    Best of luck in Germany (your maybe new home)!

    1. I’m also running on 3 hours of sleep and a whole lot of sugar so if any of that seems grammatically horrible, that is why. Or at least that’s my excuse.

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