My Home: Where I Am Most Understood
Last week, when actively scouring the web for new reading material, I stumbled upon Denizen, an online magazine catered to reaching out to third culture kids all over the internet. I had happened upon the website before in previous years, but this was the first time I sat down to read through the articles. Touching on issues that resonate with every third culture kid hidden in every possible pocket of the world, there are articles about identity, experiences, relationships, community, and various showcases of the third cultured cause. All underline a very strong sense of human interest. In very quick succession, I found several favourites, all of which relate to the search for home. Reading them made me think of my own journey.
My Home: It Can Be Chosen & Sometimes It Chooses Me
For most of my life, when people asked me where I felt the most at home, I would immediately reply with, “Jakarta”. It would be justified with a handful of textbook definitions of what made it an acceptable response: I was born and raised there, I spent a large portion of my formative years there, I hold substantial attachments to the place and the selected inhabitants who have become part of my life, and most of all, of all the places I have been, I feel the most comfortable. These things still hold water today.
But since then I have lived in two more countries aside from Indonesia, one of which was Singapore, and I embraced it lovingly as a second home. I don’t live in there anymore, and I know I don’t live with the hope that one day I’ll live there again, but I also don’t limit myself to the notion of it being a virtual impossibility. With the idea of having more than one place to call home, the concept of home has become increasingly intangible, placing more value on its meaning rather than its location.
I also keep in contact with a large handful of my classmates from high school. It moves me to know that in spite of the fact that some of them haven’t returned to Jakarta since going off to college, it’s still very much considered their home. Some even list that as their hometowns on their Facebook profiles. I’d like to believe that it’s because some people’s experiences involve such a profound connection with certain places, that passports may not be the deciding power in naming what people consider home.
My Home: It Isn’t (Necessarily) Hereditary
If anyone were to ask my immediate family members to identify where or what they consider home, my parents and I will have different answers. We should have different answers because we grew up in different places, and we also have varying degrees of attachments to certain locations. This type of circumstance may be unique in comparison to others who may have remained rooted to one place for their entire lives, and my mobility has ingrained me with the belief that defining home is and should be a conscious decision. I could never really wrap my head around the following thing I hear on occasion: “This is the home of your ancestors. Therefore, this is your home too.”
Should this ethos work for you personally, then good for you. But it doesn’t fly with me. While I am open to the idea that it could also mean the sweet sentiment of home is being shared to the various branches of the family tree, to insist on attachment by proxy in the name of the previous generation is something I cannot bring myself to accept. If I had to be consistent with that logic and take my Spanish lineage into account, then I might as well state my home is Spain. Never mind that I have never traveled there, nor have any idea what part of the country my ancestors hail from, nor have any other attachment to the country other than a fascination for its culture. (Not that Spain can never be my home, of course. Should I be granted the opportunity to live there in the future, it can potentially become a home for me, too.)
Growing up with many people who find the notion of home everywhere and nowhere at the same time made me unaffected by the notion of home to be something inherited or ascribed. This gave me the gift of looking for and defining home for myself.
My Home: It Goes Beyond the Physical
After realising I found home in more than just one place, I realised the sentiment exceeds worldly and materialistic views. Those who might be less sensitive to the idea may bring up things like Jakarta’s unreal traffic jams or back stories of bomb threats and various attacks. For Singapore, it could be its reputation as a nanny state, or the fact that it’s a small place. I’ve even endured the antagonistic comparison of malls, restaurants, cultural habits of people, and — get this — levels of pollution, all of which seemed like an ego-driven measuring contest and fulfilled just as little.
But, here’s the thing: they’re all physical. Beyond that, it boils down to experience and personal taste.
If my criteria for home were simply based on the tangible things, my attachment to these places wouldn’t be as substantial. My ideal of home factors in the more intangible things, such as relationships, emotional attachments, experiences, and memories associated with these places. It can even be those things. I carry them all with me, as I did before, and will continue to do for the rest of my life. In the discomfort of physical inconsistency, these are precisely what makes the permanence of a home to me.
What About You?
Is home a place, a person (or people), or an idea to you? Where, who, and where is it/are they?