Finding my Balance: My Changing Concept of ‘Home’

Home to me is the sensation of peace on a Sunday morning; the sound of the cathedral bells tolling for morning service; the comforting memory of my mum’s bangles jingling on her wrists; the raucous sound of my brothers running up and down the stairs; my dad elegantly playing the piano and then pausing to slowly pace across the wooden floorboards in the wake of a new idea.

The word ‘home’ can mean any number of things to a person. One of the first questions we ask people when we first meet them is ‘Where do you live?’, or ‘Where do you come from?’ Home is our conception of self, the foundation of our identity. Feeling like you have an origin is an essential part of human nature. We are lone wolves, but we will always be part of a pack.

At five am this morning, I woke up contemplating the Western definition of ‘home’. We associate home with comfort, stability, the familiar. But what if home can be the new and unfamiliar?

Before I moved away, home was a place almost too comfortable to motivate me to make a change. Feeling grounded did little to shake off my feelings of despondency. But what if home is meant to be somewhere that challenges you, somewhere that makes you feel unsafe in order to hurl you out into the unknown? What if home can be mobile, transient, ever-changing?

Over time, we cultivate our lives in many different homes. We shed one shell and adopt another.

It’s been three weeks since I moved to Berlin and already my concept of home has changed. I have found home in myself: my passions, my interests, my own company. Home is still a sanctuary, but it has been constructed out of my own being. Home is no longer a physical place, but a concept.

Home is a place to be content, even if you are far away from those you love. Home for me is where I spend time alone, cultivate ideas, immerse myself in culture, literature, the things I love; learn to speak to myself more kindly, reward myself for small personal triumphs. For now, home is within myself and it’s a powerful feeling.

Home doesn’t just have to be with the familiar. Establishing home in yourself actually involves wading through tides of the unfamiliar. It’s surprising how much we conceal from ourselves.

Making home within yourself involves opening the floodgates to emotion. One cannot know oneself without first knowing how to feel.

Home can be any number of places, but it’s comforts are defined by simple, blissful moments that remind you of where you belong. It is in your own concept of home where the fragments of your life are unified. You will leave parts of you in different places and with different people, but home reminds you of what is absolutely true and integral to your life and character.

Home is the place where my facades are shed. I am entirely myself. Imperfect, flawed, but me.

Home is substantial, safe, secure. Places are home. People are home. You, your mind, your body, is home.

 

 

 

‘New Year, New Me’ – that old chestnut

Christmas has passed and now dawns the obligatory reflection on the past year. I’ve had fun. I’ve got no regrets. But one thing that has occurred to me is the fact that for the first time in my life, I have had to adjust to feeling like my life is permanently in stasis. I am neither on the move, nor settled. I have no real aims or desires. Little to strive for other than securing my first 9-5 job.

After graduating from University, we all need time to adjust, it’s true, but when you’re floundering amid job sites, interviews and sometimes rather useless career advice, it’s easy to see how graduates such as myself struggle to do just that.

My graduate experience has seen me coming to terms with the fact that, for now, my life is stagnant. People say this is a time for ‘endless opportunity.’ I have an expanse of time in front of me. The struggle is knowing how to use it effectively.

After returning home from university, my mind, so used to being stimulated, even overloaded, struggled to cope with the sudden inactivity. Days passed when I laid on my bed feeling truly, inescapably depressed; anxious under the weight of having very little to fill the days.

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The future appeared as an endless abyss of time – days unfolding before me that had no real significance. I felt my mind teetering on the brink of insanity as I meditatively watched my mother’s hand stirring her tea every morning, wondering what I would do with my life that day. Psychologists have made links between depression and boredom. A mind unstimulated can create a mind that is unsound. The only problem with my mind, however, was its inactivity.

Emily Dickinson wrote in her poem ‘One need not be a chamber to be haunted’ that the greatest terror to be found is within ourselves. Forget ghosts, our brains, our minds, are the most insidious presence of all. Left alone with my thoughts on a daily basis became lethal to me. Monotony killed all creativity. The most genius people in history have had days where they have woken up encased in despondency, unable to quite contemplate why everything seems so distant from themselves. Keats once said, ‘I do not feel in the world’, and I relate. There’s nothing worse than feeling out of touch with yourself.

I tried to immerse myself in literature, politics and history to find some way of staying connected to the world, and to myself. I found comfort in reading things that inspired me. It reminded me of what I love and what is most important to me. The greatest among us can, so easily, slip into the recesses of our own minds and become dominated by our fears and anxieties. The test is how you dig yourself out.

Ever since I was a child, my mum has always been fond of speaking to me in metaphors. Her metaphor for me now is that of a flower – one that has been weathered by the storm and has, at times, nearly perished in the frost and must now protect itself for the winter ahead. The winter may be cruel and unkind, but it will fortify the flower for later years when the frost inevitably returns. This flower will protect itself under a layer of earth ready to bloom in the turn of Spring. For now it must wait, recover, and learn to be still.

Perhaps I will look back on this part of my life and realise that stillness is exactly what I needed. I needed to learn how to lead a life not under my own tyrannous dictatorship. In short, I needed to give myself a break.

I have no resolutions to make for the New Year, but all I know is that I want it to be varied. I want my life to be an ‘exhausting profusion of passions’, a series of mistakes and set-backs that are remedied by moments of intense happiness, glory and pride. I want life to be something I progressively discover when sense and experience deem me able to. I want to know and experience all, but remain curious.

And when all the chips are down, I will remind myself, as I try to do every day that, I am alive and I am advancing.

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