Home is where the cats are, or where the heart is, or, according to the great popular philosophers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, home is wherever I’m with you.
Despite the limiting, for people who decide they’re better on their own, nature of a song of an otherwise high artistic and sentimental value – with the bonus brownie points of making you feel like the queer protagonist of a domestic fanfiction in a brightly lit kitchen in a New York apartment, with kittens purring around your ankles – this song succeeds in making one thing perfectly clear: the sense of home is many things, and stable is not one of them.
The word ‘home’ is largely overused, posing in inspirational quotes written in aesthetically pleasing fonts on doormats, coffee mugs and phone power-banks.
It is a passe-partout, referring to origins, culture, family, a cottage with ditsy floral curtains, afternoon naps and jasmines, company and isolation and all the feelings of peace and quiet and lack thereof. It is bricks and cement and steady incomes, and struggling and panting after bills and self-discovery and just clouds.
At least that was where I had always found my sense of home: in a frozen airplane descending in various pretentious stages of the sky, sunrises and sunsets where pastel watercolors melted into solid ground, a new city with tiny ants that turned to cooler people than those I knew, with legos that turned to prettier houses than those of my hometown. Home for me was partly, until recently, where my dog was, and other than that, anywhere but here.
I was that kid in the indie movie who wanted to run away. I hated school and everyone in it – with a few bright exceptions. I hated the opportunities my city seemed to give me and the lack of understanding I seemed to receive. Its appearance, its architecture, how mean people could get, how the streets were not clean and the bookshops not old enough, how we didn’t have a river, or cherry blossoms in the spring.
I thought that, somehow, all this was interconnected with the fact that I didn’t exactly have a community, a sense of belonging. I surely did have friends, wonderful ones at that, but the narrow-mindedness of other people I knew suffocated me and made me feel as an outsider in the very streets I had grown up. One thing was sure: I needed to leave. It felt as if I had nothing to hold me back. Well, except from the puppy, but I would figure that out.
I found home at an Airbnb flat in Belleville, the neighborhood with the uncountable florist shops, and bookshops, and sometimes both of them.
As much as I loved my own family, I found another one in Ireland: an Internet penpal who became my diary and then my therapist and, to this day, sister-by-choice, as well as her wonderful Molly Weasley kind of mother with a supportive attitude towards all things LGBT. I was adopted by their little cottage and their genderfluid cats.
Then I found myself lost in London, wondered how I had never appreciated this noise before, how one could have grown up without all that theater. I left my heart in John Keats’ house at Hampstead Heath, wondering how anyone could have ever wanted to live anywhere else. Then I came back.
With my head desperately stuck somewhere between the West End and the Lion King lyrics, the marvel of Glendalough, the LGBT bookshop, and Fanny Brawne’s lines, I wandered in the subway dizzy and lost, with my eyes shut in dangerous denial.
That was how that day started.
Back in Athens last September, I visited our local LGBT youth organization and became a member. Suddenly those streets I had deemed so ugly grew dear to me when embellished with steps of new friends and loved-ones. Drunk nights out, a community, things to do, places to go, a sense of purpose, people like me, jokes like those I cherished the most, holding oblivious hands at 2AM and running between the cars like children.
It wasn’t only one of them: being active, having something I was interested in that made me want to work for, the new friends, the new places I discovered or the love I happened to fall in.
It was a combination of all of them, and the gut-punching shock that life can be good even outside the dream I had built to keep it going. It was tears, regret, disarray, dirty alleys and always almost throwing up, and it was horrible, and it made me never want to leave again. It was growing up; and it was messy and exactly how I had dreamt it and it was finally happening to me.
After that change took place, I also moved out of my parents’ house. Having a place which I could call /my/ home, with records on walls I would have painted the colour of Squidward from Spongebob, my friends able to come over whenever, and my cat uninterrupted in a kingdom without anyone to give a shit about scratches in the sheets, had been my hugest dream, and continues to be while I’m sitting amongst unpacked boxes that are soon to become cat forts.
Yet, I still completely freaked out the first night I stayed there, just because I realized the change that was about to happen. Me, the person who wanted to live all over the world, freaking out at the idea of change, even when this change is desirable and towards better circumstances, even though I wouldn’t even move away from the city and would be just 40′ by car away from my dog.
I also keep freaking out (because that’s what I do) when I take a step back and inspect the work I’m putting in this tiny home that means so much to me, and then I realize that I might leave again soon, to continue my studies abroad, or for whichever reason.
Is my home – THE home – going to stop being such? And what is the point in printing posters and putting fairy lights everywhere and colour coding my books all over again, if it’s to be for a limited period of time? Doesn’t it go a bit like relationships? Don’t get too invested when you know that something is going to end?
At that point, with the quarter life crisis starting a bit early, I stumbled upon an article that reflected my feelings and was written, as I found out with pleasant surprise, by a school classmate of mine, a wonderfully kind and talented person who I was always fond of. It made me incredibly happy to find out that she wrote, to read something that was hers, and to realize her thoughts were echoing mine.
And that made me think of all the places I’ve called home at different points: the house where my mother grew up in an island much more than the actual house I grew up in. That (the family) house, but after our dog came. That hotel room when I visited Crete with my dad. Parks and bookshops around Europe. Some places I had stayed at for less than five days, and that made me want to agree and, as the person who stayed back, after all, rephrase: it’s important to lose your very rigid sense of home as you grow up, because change happens, but it’s also important to carry the fluidity of home with you, to transfer and convert it. So be a turtle. You can have multiple homes, all serving a different purpose, all creating different memories that make you you.
Somewhere in the process, the only certainty is that some places will fail to make a home. Some people will, too. But some others won’t.
Our life is made up from hundreds of tiny lives, defined by huge and by smaller things, such as the fandoms you change. Don’t beat yourself up for being reborn. Carry your photos with you, visit but don’t lament, change the wallpaper into constellations, even if you had once sworn faith to florals.