I’ve read a lot of articles over the years about defining home. It’s a big deal in the expat world as it’s a part of our identity. And yet it’s an issue I have struggled with since the moment we left the US 5 1/2 years ago. People ask – where are you from?? Where is home? Well, we’re American and we are from Boston. Or is it? That’s who we are, but is that where we call home? When I speak of going “home” – where am I talking about? Is it Boston, Barcelona, or even here in the Netherlands? Some days it’s none. Others, it’s all three.
And it is especially difficult because the children have a very different definition on where home is from mine. In fact, Josh, too, sees home as a different place. How is it possible that four people from the same place can define “home” so differently?
Is home where we are from? Where we are born? Is it where our families are? Our friends? Or is it the place where we feel most comfortable in our own skin? Is it where people speak your language and “get” you because they have grown up in the same culture you have? Or like the saying goes, “home is where the heart is”.
And while I go back and forth on trying to define home, recently I had that ah ha moment. It was the realization as to why this is not my “home”. It is because I have been constantly trying to replicate what home means to me. To do the things that remind me of home and make me smile – things like apple picking, playing with the kids in the neighborhood, having spontaneous barbecues with friends, celebrating milestones with family, the holidays, knowing where to go to buy things you need (seriously, I know I’ve talked about this before, but who buys a muffin pan at a hardware store?), people speaking your language. The list could go on and on.
And what I’ve recognized is that this IS NOT HOME. I cannot replicate a place that is so different than where I currently live. This place I now call home doesn’t have the history, the memories or the family of the place that I define as “home”. And in a sense, it never will. In order to make this new place feel like home, I need to let go of this feeling of defining home by this place we are most comfortable with and move forward, embracing the differences that make this place special too. That make it different from the place I define as home. For us to start new traditions and find new things to do. And while we will always miss our family and miss the “simpleness” of our lives at home, we cannot recreate it in another country.
That doesn’t mean I’m ready to toss aside the place I call home. By no means. I miss home EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. But I’m never going to feel like I belong here or anywhere else until I get past defining what home really means. So for now, it will be this. Home is where my little family is. Home is the place we are currently taking up roots and we will do our best to embrace this place for what it is and to integrate in our own way and in our own time. And while I know that it doesn’t have the comfort of the place that I have been calling home for so many years, nor the same people, it has lots of great places to discover and people for us to meet. For now, this is our home.
And so, since I’ve been really struggling to find my place here in the Netherlands, more so than I did in Spain, I’m determined to make this new definition of home my mantra. It won’t be easy but then, expat life rarely is. But we didn’t take on this “adventure” because it was the easy choice, now did we??
Knuffels en kussen,