Never have I ever. Never have I ever felt the disconnect. Never have I ever felt separated. Isolated, rejected, detached, removed. Those words never come to mind when I think of home.
Even after spending time studying at Emory University in Atlanta, I still feel incredibly intertwined with my home. But perhaps that is because my view of home is different than the typical person. From my own perspective, home is not a physical destination. Rather, it becomes a slew of sensations and memories that are forever imprinted in my mind. Which begs the idea of whether home is just in the mind, or an actual setting in which we must reside in order to feel a sense of satisfaction?
Essentially, to me, home encompasses the stories of who you are and the events that made you, you. They happened, they exist, and they are your history. That is what brings me a sense of home, simply acknowledging the memories that make me organically me. That way, I never need to get on a plane to go home, home is always with me.
Growing up in a very common tourist destination, Fort Lauderdale often is stereotyped as a land filled with beaches, babes, and booze. However, having lived there for nineteen years, to me it is so much more. Fort Lauderdale’s story lies far beyond the common spring break trip for a northerner or for its fabulous nightlife and shopping. Instead, my “home” is defined by the anecdotes of the people, places, and traditions of the landscape of Fort Lauderdale. There is no single story that is my home, but instead several that contribute to one’s existence and place in the world. However, this heroic outlook was not always my case.
I discovered this fully after my high school graduation as I prepared to leave for college. Thus, my first story of home derives from leaving it. I initially became concerned because I had never lived anywhere else, especially without my friends and family. I began to over-dramatize leaving and not driving past my neighbors' houses and the comfort in the regularity of familiar faces. Or the particular smell of hard work and sweaty toes that greeted me like a gust of wind every time I opened the door to my dance studio. Or the comfort of knowing that my Mom was just a phone call away. But I pursued: I moved to Atlanta and began an entirely new life filled with strangers. Each day was new, unpromised, and not planned.
It was riveting, mostly because it was mine.
But along with this new chapter came the first stories that encompassed the book that is my life. Those same individual sensations that always made me feel at home. I recall one night in particular in my first weeks at Emory in my dorm room. I had finally completely settled in an established a routine, but instead of increasing butterflies in my stomach of homesickness that I expected, a different feeling emerged.
I chose to think back upon my home and smile: I love the memories of driving past neighbors with the windows down with a common greeting or pulling up to my dance studio into my favorite parking spot on the corner of Glades Parkway. But I also realize and know that they will be waiting for me in Fort Lauderdale.
I also find that same comfort of being able to call my mom at any point, whether she's a mile away or six hundred and fifty, as I realized her proximity to me doesn’t make me more or less at home. By moving away from what I considered home, that is, the physical destination, I discovered that home is always with me because each of those memories and stories exist in my mind forever. This realization made me discover that I will always feel at home and carry a sense of my past and where I’m from.
I have since found comfort that those memories stay with me no matter the zip code I am in.
Because the people and places that ever made me feel most “at home” have had impacts on me that I carry with me each day and will share with others everywhere I go. Perhaps the process of carrying our memories with us with giving us the closest sense of home we can endure. And maybe it is a distance from home to change our perspective and ultimately bring us closer to home.
Never have I ever. Never have I ever felt so lucky to have retained so many incredible milestones and moments. Enamored, adored, celebrated, flourishing. Never have I ever felt more at home than when I am with myself.