No surprises here, I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” recently. I travelled back to Australia last week to celebrate two of our friends getting married and enjoyed catching up with familiar faces and basking in the glorious Aussie sun in a few of my favourite places. Though as I spent time back in my familiar “home” I surprisingly found myself longing for my new “home” in San Francisco. I was so glad to be around people I’d been missing for the last three months, yet I started to think about what truly makes and defines home, and how really, I think we’re all longing to find this magical space that feels right, wherever we are in the world.
There have been countless songs written about home, books written about the sense of belonging (hello year 11 English!) and plenty of Hollywood reflections on the concept of home through movies and television.
One of my all time favourite songs, ‘Home’ by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros says “home is wherever I’m with you”. For me, that ‘you’ is my husband, Navin and undoubtedly, I packed up my life in Australia to follow his work in San Francisco, so yes I sure hope that home is wherever I’m with him! But as I’ve spent a lot of time by myself these last three months in a new city whilst he spends hours at work, I’ve questioned what makes a home, how we go about creating one and why it’s okay to feel tied to multiple places as home. As I Skyped an Australian friend this week she asked “How are you feeling being home?” then paused and said “Actually, do you call San Francisco home now?”
“Yes”, I answered, “I do call San Francisco home, I need to call it home!”
Maybe you’re comfortable in whatever home you’ve found, or you’ve uprooted your life and you’re struggling to find home right where you are. This reflection is for anyone and everyone who is finding that space even if it’s a place that’s been around you all along.
So, how do we define home? Home is something different to everyone. For me, I thought it was about familiar places, smells, people, memories and sounds. When I came to San Francisco I was so determined to hold onto these things so I didn’t lose the sense that Australia was my home. When I visited San Diego Zoo in November last year I remember feeling so excited to walk through the Australian animal exhibit and when I reached an aviary I stopped for what felt like forever, closed my eyes and just listened: all the noises of birds, bugs and animals that came together as a perfect symphony for an Australian summer. I felt like I was 10 years old again, lying in my bedroom on a warm summer morning listening to the cicadas and kookaburras sing and laugh together. Those few minutes felt like home and I wondered how I could capture this and take it back with me so I wouldn’t forget what home sounded like. But then it struck me: as long as I keep thinking of and referring to Australia as my home, I’ll never truly feel comfortable in San Francisco. I’ve found that these three things make a home:
- Finding a sense of purpose where you are, and giving back within that community.
San Francisco didn’t feel like home because I’d kept telling myself that I was worthless here until I got a job, and couldn’t fit in or give back in any way. When I realised this wasn’t true and looked for ways to be a part of community here – whether through church or sharing our space on Airbnb, I started to feel comfortable calling SF my home.
- Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel at home
It seems pretty obvious, but it took me a while to be open enough to make friends here. I felt happy with the friends I have back “home” in Australia and felt that if I replaced them I’d lose the sense of calling Australia home. I think wherever we are we need to form these connections so we can share in a place together. I’ve learnt I’m not replacing anyone, simply opening up my circle to enjoy community with others, wherever I am.
- Finding a sense of pride in the new place you call home
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be barracking for Australia in the Olympics but I’ve found this surprising sense of pride in San Francisco surface every time it pops up on my Newsfeed, features in a Lonely Planet travel list, or anytime we do well in sport (let’s go Giants!). I’ve learnt that it’s so important to immerse yourself in everything about your home, and it will naturally overflow to a pride that makes it truly feel like home. Allowing myself this flexibility has made me fall in love with this city and truly feel comfortable being here.
All this said, I think it’s also important to realise that it’s okay to call multiple places home. There’s been many stages of my life where my safe place, my “home”, has changed, but all of these places are still special to me. When I stayed at my family home during my trip back to Australia I found myself naturally walking back down the hallway to my old bedroom, only to look up and see my brother’s skateboards and posters everywhere – this was now his “home”. Once upon a time I considered UTS, my university, home. I worked there, studied there and met some of my greatest friends there. It felt safe, comfortable and invigorating whenever I was there. But it’s not my home anymore. I guess this shows that wherever home may be, it definitely doesn’t mean you’re there forever.
Whilst I’m confident that you can take the girl out of Australia but you can’t take Australia out of the girl, I’m so happy and privileged to call multiple places home. Because finally, I’ve learnt that wherever I am, I need to find a sense of home because if I don’t, I’m just a foreigner, an alien, and our innate craving for belonging begs us to feel otherwise. Now that I’ve recognised a sense of purpose here, people that make me feel comfortable and pride in so many things about this city, I’m ready to call San Francisco home.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”
– Maya Angelou
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Where is home for you? Do you call multiple places home? Would love to hear your thoughts about home below 🙂