For the first installation of my new series, AFLOAT, I am drawn to discuss the nostalgia for “home” and childhood that I feel each autumn. Maybe it’s the cooler air, or the smell of musty dead leaves, or the longer evenings, but something always brings me back to a cozy afternoon home from school, listening to my mom rummage around the kitchen for a soup pot, siblings laughing or shouting in the basement, me cuddled up with tea in my cocoon of blankets on my couch. This is the home that I miss each year as I sit alone in my LA apartment: the same LA apartment I spent all my childhood dreaming about.
Yet, I find that each time I do return to my physical home for the holidays or a sibling’s graduation in the summer, I’m faced with a deep unsettled disappointment. Home isn’t always the house we grew up in. It could be your grandparents’ house, your neighbor’s, your friend’s that felt like your own. Home is not a physical space at all, rather a feeling - and for me this feeling is comfort, simplicity and the old yearning for what could be. Now, in the midst of “what could be,” fully feeling the contractions of growth, understanding who I authentically am and dog paddling through the complexities of my third decade on earth…this symbolic home that I miss so dearly is no longer the same.
At first this realization was jarring and I tried to ignore it. I tried to force the old feelings I’m homesick for to reemerge upon each return to my family home. When thrown around, feeling down or just utterly confused in our 20s - home is just what our soul feels it needs. We want to crawl back into our caves - perhaps hide, disappear and ignore all of our grown-up responsibilities. I know I want to most days.
Despite the apparent bleakness of our loss of what used to be home, the truth is that:
We have the power to restructure our expectations on the return to a physical home by cultivating this feeling we yearn for in our present surroundings, daily.
We can redefine home.
How I’m redefining home for myself in my everyday.
i. Daily Reprogramming Exercise (DRE) • I take the nostalgia through the DRE, paying attention to what I’m truly missing, what I feel like I need at this moment and why I have these feelings.
ii. JOURNALING • Once I’ve made my discoveries during the DRE (and sometimes it takes going through the DRE multiple days in a row before I feel like I’ve actually unearthed something - that’s normal! Sometimes we ignore our needs for so long that they become buried deep, deep down. Be patient with yourself), then I start writing stream of consciousness whatever came up. If nothing came up, I write down all the things I miss from home - on the physical plane or from memories - and then ask myself, “Why do you miss this?” until I arrive at a feeling or a comfort that I’m lacking currently. Where is the hole you’re seeking to fill?
iii. YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE • What makes you feel the most at home, that you have the ability to replicate in your current space? For me: the smell from a candle my mom always has lit, music my parents play throughout the house during the holidays, warm roasted veggies with thyme fresh from the oven, a blanket from my childhood bed, dozing off on the couch as my dad watched football…these are pieces of home that I am able to carry out in my LA apartment. I buy the same candle, I asked my mom to send me my blanket…etc.
Sure, sometimes the familiar smells or items make me feel even more nostalgic, but I focus on reminding myself that home is ever changing. All we can do is find comfort and piece with where we are NOW, participating in activities that bring us joy, clearing out what doesn’t and surrounding ourselves with people we love.