What does home mean to you? Have you ever pondered that question? Home can sometimes seem undefinable because it means so many different things to many people, but you know when you are there. You know when you have come home.
As I wrote this article, I googled “what is home?” Just for fun. The initial search gave a snippet from Habitat for Humanity’s website “Home is a safe haven and comfort zone.” This caused me to click through and read how Habitat’s homeowners, volunteers, and staff answered the question. I thought I would share some of those answers to confirm further that home means different things to different people.
Here is what they said.
- “Home means a future. Once, we had a stable home. we could think beyond where we were going to live from week to week, and we could begin to look ahead to where we wanted to go. Home is the base where everything begins.” —Kelly
- “Only three words: safety, security, stability.” —Kathy
- “Home is a place blessed, where you and your family can be secure, have all you need, and share your sadness and happiness. Where you can help each other as a family. It does not matter how big or small. I live in a small room with my two sons, and we share our thoughts. —Honey
- “A home means a stable foundation. When I was a little kid, my parents never had their own place. With five kids, my dad worked seven days a week. 12 hours a day; mom worked off and on. We went from one place to another. I can remember one place we lived in had no bathroom. the windows were missing, the walls no better—there were holes in them. Sixteen years ago I started helping Habitat and will always help people in need. God bless and thanks. P.S. Dad, you’re the best, will always remember you!” —Thomas
- “I think that home is simply wherever you’re surrounded by people who love you.” —Mary Kate
- “Home is a safe haven and a comfort zone. A place to live with our families and pets and enjoy it with friends. A place to build memories as well as a way to build future wealth. A place where we can truly just be ourselves. And whether our houses are big, small, fancy or modest, they are our shelters and our sanctuaries.” —Linda
- “Home is the base where everything begins.” —Kelly
As I read the responses, there was a bit of disagreement and sadness but understanding. I know many of you where home is not a safe haven and many of you whose home is not your comfort zone. While there are many of you whose beginnings at home were horrible and traumatic. And still, many of you have beautiful physical homes, but you are lonely or feel alone and unloved. So an abode built to live in is not a home but a house. So home has to be deeper and beyond its concrete description and physical characteristics.
What did home mean to me?
At one time, home meant the place I grew up. It was the backdrop of many experiences, good and bad, but it was there that I felt the most as if I belonged. The place where I played with my little brother and I climbed fences and trees, where I watched my baby sister learn how to walk, and the place where my daughter was born and later played. A place that I have always returned to with my mom and dad there. There was security, values, comfort, and love.
And then we moved to a new country, and home felt out of balance, loud, unsafe, and unkind. It was a dirty, unmannerly place, lacked inclusiveness, and was divided. A place I would go back to daily, but now it was only to my mom, my brother and sister, my grand, and my aunt.
We moved to NYC, and everything was different and unfamiliar. I felt unsafe, there were Sirens at all hours of the day and night, and people did not say good morning. Everyone was in a rush and unkind to each other, and there were places where garbage was everywhere. My dad only visited [he stayed behind for work]. Nothing felt like it once did. I struggled to call this new place home, to fit in and belong. And as a family, we struggled to adapt to this new life, our new environment, and our new home.
The missing piece
It would be years before I felt at home again, only to have that feeling go away even years later. Yet, that sense of not belonging, missing and lacking safety remained. It did not matter that I had created a beautiful physical home for us; it did not matter how comfortable it felt and how much laughter and good times we experienced with our family and friends. Something was missing.
But I lived that way for a long time. Until May 2021, when my dear dad passed on. Then, I was restless, angry, and in pain—I was going through the worst season of my life.
So what does home mean to me?
It was a few months in, and I was still struggling to make sense of everything I was experiencing and trying to make sense of my life without being supported. I felt unsafe, scared, and alone. And like I no longer belong to where I was in my current state [not space].
For twenty-five days, there were moments between tears, questions, and regrets where I gave myself grace and extended kindness. There were moments where I felt a deep sense of safety [almost divine security] and a deep sense of love. I felt as if I was finally being cared for and heard. I felt more at home than I had felt in a long time. But I was not in my beautiful living room, kitchen, or dining room. Instead, I was lying almost to the end of the bed, on the right side, with my head buried in my two pillows, crying and hugging myself. I was assuring myself that I would be ok. At that moment, I realized home was not just a physical domain to me. It is beyond the Webster Dictionary’s definition.
Home meant what I was feeling and thinking. It was my environment and those around me. It was how I felt about myself, whether I loved myself or how I loved myself. Whether my needs were being met and how I was nurturing myself.
In those moments, home was not a place I needed to prove that I was worthy or deserving. Or a place where I needed to shrink myself or be someone else to be accepted or loved. It was much more than that and much more than a physical space filled with rooms, furniture, and others.
I think about the many homeless people roaming the streets of NYC, looking for someplace warm to rest as the temperature declines, and I am grateful for the physical space where I live [like I always am]. I love having a physical space I call home, the place I get to live. The place where I get to create meals, journal, read, write, take care of myself, and so much more.
It is a blessing and a privilege to have a physical space to live in—so many have no place to live.
And so we are to be thankful for our physical spaces, bless it often, take care of it, create beautiful memories, have fabulous experiences, and share it with others.
But have you stopped and thought about HOME apart from your physical space? Think about it.
Many of us have not, and while many have physical spaces we call home—we also have home within.
And it would be best to honor both your inner and outer homes. We have discarded pieces of ourselves throughout your life [and mine]. Some parts of ourselves were discarded by choice, while others were discarded through no choice of our own [painful experiences, hurt, trauma, etc.]. So to honor your inner home, you must gather the discarded pieces of yourself and find your way home.
Yes, home is a physical space and can also be a feeling. But home is the courage to explore the deeper unknown parts of yourself. It is about how to be in a relationship with your mind, body, and soul. Home is being curious and paying attention at a deeper level. It is about consenting to be vulnerable and honest with yourself even when it hurts or does not seem easy. Home is letting go of old impediments that no longer serve you and holding on [not too tightly] to the things that do.
It is trusting yourself in the most profound way possible so that you know what is best for you. And it is about kindness, laughter, fun, and grace. But it is also about asking difficult questions.
Who you are, who you want to become, and why you are here [why are we here].
Home is a deep knowing that we are enough and worthy just as we are, but it is self-reflection, setting boundaries, and honoring our needs.
It is to see and accept all of you, your light, and your darkness, because one does not exist without the other.
Home is you, and coming home to yourself is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give yourself.
I sometimes share my articles with friends or family before they are published. For example, my dear friend Viv asked me.
“Does coming home to myself mean I will no longer experience hurt or disappointment?”
“Life is what it is—mysterious, unpredictable, and some even say unfair. I think life will always be what it is meant to be. When you come home to yourself, it does not imply a perfect life. Like when a spiritual person reaches enlightenment, life does not become perfect—there is a misconception that it does. But I somehow can not see that happening.
There is perfection in life, just not how we think of perfection. Life will be and do what it is meant to—when you come home, you become something somewhat whole [although you are already whole]. Maybe it is best to say you begin to see your wholeness, worth, and enoughness—all of which you already are. You do not feel the need to run away, distract or seek refuge outside of yourself. Instead, when you come home, you experience yourself as you are and let go of all you thought you had to be.
Yes, there are still deaths, illness may still lurk, and heartbreaks may still come, but you will be in
“the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
I will say welcome home to you—your home belongs to you. Think about what home means to you. Question, reflect, dig deeper and discern what home means to you.