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What is home?

This is not a very easy question to answer, and one I have been mulling over a lot lately. When your life is in a change state, a sense of home adds some stability. But, home has many meanings. For example, when people ask of my Thanksgiving plans I say “I am going home.” This is not a reference to a place that I live, but where I grew up, where my family is – there is certainly a sense of stability and comfort for me there, a nostalgic home. But, for the past few years, when the work day drags long, and I lament “I just want to go home.” I’m referring mostly to a living space. A physical construct of a place that is simply “not work.” It does not necessarily denote stability or comfort (other than my bed).

In the past 8 years that I have lived in this city, I have had 7 addresses. Seven different “homes.” None have felt like home. I had one apartment where I lived alone, that one was the closest. I felt the most safe there of all the places I’ve lived since I’ve been here – well, emotionally safe at least, the neighborhood was kind of going down hill. On more than one occasion I have moved into someone else’s “home.” Into a space already occupied by someone, a space that had been theirs, and set to their liking and functionality. Despite the other’s insistence that I make myself comfortable, and feel like this is where I live now, it’s still difficult to feel at home in a living space that is clearly someone elses.

Home is, at its core, essentially personal. It is a living space that you set up and arrange to fit your personal functionality, decorate with items that have meaning or beauty to you in a way in which you appreciate them. Living in a place arranged and decorated by someone else does put a damper on one’s ability to feel a sense of self in a place. Without a sense of self, is a place really a home? But it’s more than just furniture and knick-knacks. Home is an emotional construct. One can feel “at home” in a place or state that is not a physical living space.
For example, over the past few years, my strongest sense of feeling “at home” has been while on a run. Everything makes sense on a run. I am contained in an emotional bubble where I am safe to think and feel whatever I want, or relax and just not think or feel anything.

As I’ve gotten older I have craved a more significant sense of home – a run, on average, is only lasting an hour. That’s not much time for feelings of comfort and stability. I want to feel “at home” in a more traditional sense of the phrase. I want my living space to be mine, to be comfortable and secure and warm and inviting. I want it to be a place I can relax, as opposed to restlessly moving from one room to the next wondering if I should be doing more at the moment in order to “earn my keep.” However, I’m afraid I don’t know what I need to do to feel at home. I don’t know what tools are in the toolbox of “homeness.” Would it help to rearrange the physical things to better represent my own preferences? Would it help to remove things from the space that I don’t care for or that aren’t mine? How do I relax and feel safe in a space?  After years and years of a constant sense of impermanence in any single living space, how is one to switch gears and feel at home in a single physical location?

I honestly just don’t know. I do not know what to do in my current space to make myself feel more comfortable. But what I do know is that lacking a sense of home is extremely taxing, and this instability spills over into other aspects of my life making everything feel shifty, impermenant and in danger of falling apart. Is it selfish to crave a sense of “home” when others are without shelter? Is a longing for home and the comfort and security it brings a natural human emotional need, or am I overthinking this whole thing? How does one overcome this? Any ideas?