I don’t call one place home. That would be impossible. A home is defined as a place where one lives permanently. Throughout the course of my life, I’ve lived in upwards of twenty different homes. Beginning with the Chicago apartment where I was born and ending with my current home, Barcelona. Because the location of my home has always been relatively inconsistent, I’ve learned to define home by where I feel most comfortable. Growing up, we had a painting on our kitchen wall with the message, “Home is where the heart is”. My mom lived by these words as we moved around frequently. She always rooted a sense of comfort into our new space with that phrase. She made an unfamiliar space ours. I will be forever grateful to her for this because as an adult, I am comfortable planting my roots most anywhere.
In the last year and a half, my sense of home has been shaken. I had my own apartment in Minneapolis and thrived living alone for the first time in my life. Nine months later, I moved to Chicago to pursue graduate school and my home became the familiar guest bedroom in my Aunt and Uncle’s house. Almost two months ago, I moved to Barcelona to co-facilitate a study abroad program and again my home shifted. At the end of the summer, I’ll visit Minneapolis where my home will be the comfort and warmth of my partner’s sun flooded high rise. Finally, I’ll return to Chicago where I’ll finish my final year of grad school. My consistent home for at least one more year.
What I’ve learned from my time in Barcelona is this, my home has become where I am physically present, where my heart feels content. My home has become this place that I was throw into six weeks ago. My home has become calm mornings in this tiled apartment with terrace doors that open over vespa flooded streets. My home has become my walk to school passing children strapped with backpacks as big as themselves and compassionate mother’s hurrying their babies through the rush. My home has become the nineteen faces that welcome me into the classroom each day with their infectious energy. My home has become evenings at the fresh market next door carrying home fresh strawberries, dewy spinach, the ripest tomatoes. My home has become quiet nights wandering Barcelona streets, mesmerized by the sound of Spanish guitars and the unspoken love language of couples holding hands over late night espresso. My home has become this place that I long for though I have yet to leave.
This place that’s given me independence, confidence and a sense of self-love. I’ve pushed myself to greater lengths, deeper depths and higher peaks. It’s not been easy. It’s been far from it. With time though, it has become easier. While traveling and studying abroad can give the illusion of this never-ending bliss, it most certainly is at times but it also carries heavy struggle. I’ve struggled to find routine amongst the unfamiliar, been completely exhausted, frustrated with my level of Spanish, desperate to take in this new culture. When I leave a place for a new one, the grass undoubtedly seems greener. The tough thing is, when I uproot myself in search of something “greener” my baggage comes with me. It doesn’t magically disappear as I pack my life into a suitcase. It stays with me because it’s a part of me. So wherever I chose to root myself, whichever place becomes my home, I understand that the onus to be great is on me.
With two nights left in this home, I’m finding it difficult to pull myself together, to savor each moment and be present because in my mind, I’m already aching for a place I haven’t left yet. As I pack to leave this home and go fill the next with my content heart, I’ll remember that I made this unfamiliar space mine and know that even on the other side of the world, away from everyone I love, my home truly is wherever I am.