Since I graduated from high school in 2006, I have lived in 12 different dwellings, seven different cities, and two different states. My life, during my late teens and early twenties, felt like I was in a constant state of motion. I felt like my things spent most of their time in boxes while I lived in what I planned to be semi-permanent home. Throughout the course of the time I lived there, I was constantly looking for a place where things belonged. For almost eight years, I felt like I was sitting on the edge of my chair, not willing to lean back and get comfortable. I knew once I did, I would just have to get up again.
But then, last month, my fiance and I bought a house.
When we first began discussing the possibility of buying instead of finding another rental that would be big enough for the both of us after our wedding, I thought it was almost too good to be true. Buying would mean no more moving, at least for a while. And that kind of comfort, to me, was invaluable.
Don’t get me wrong. I have loved every second of exploring new cities and trying my hand at decorating new spaces. But while I love adventure and spontaneity, I like to go out and find it, then return home. Being unwillingly thrust into a constant state of adventure has always been unsettling for me.
Every time I moved and had to go through the process of changing my address, finding nearby grocery stores, learning how to work the new shower (this can be strangely difficult).
I would feel a familiar rush of a mix both excitement and frustration. While it was invigorating to have this fresh start, it was hard for me to remain excited knowing that sooner or later, I would be packing up and shipping out just to go through the same motions in a new place.
I assumed that when we bought a home, all these unsettled feelings would just pack up and ship out themselves. I imagined myself signing those closing papers and feeling this weight of uncertainty and wandering float up off my shoulders.
But that didn’t happen.
I comforted myself with thoughts that maybe I just needed to be in the house knowing it was mine.
But when we pulled in the driveway and walked through the door, the feeling remained. It still didn’t feel like I had a real home.
For the next few weeks I kept waiting for it to hit me. I am a homeowner and I am going to live here for a very long time. I waited through move-in day and the unpacking of boxes. I waited through our first dinner in the dining room and through filling the empty cupboards with our favorite foods. I waited through hanging our art on the walls and filling the shelves with photographs of the faces of our family and friends.
I waited and waited but the feeling never came. The weight never lifted.
Then the other night, in the midst a family emergency and preparing for the blizzard we were about to get, I began to cry. Nick* who was busy preparing dinner put down everything to come over to pull me into his arms. He sat there quietly letting me weep while silently assuring me everything would be OK.
And then it finally, finally hit me.
With him, I had been settled all along. And I don’t mean settled, like “she’s done dating all those losers and is ready to settle down” settled. I mean I realized it’s him, and all the people I love, that create my home. And I already had a place where I belonged when the wandering got to be too much.
I know it’s cliche, proclaiming that home is where the heart is, but it took me a really long time to believe it, apparently.
Throughout these years I believed that if there was one building that I knew I was going stay in for a long time, I would finally feel at home. I was counting on these bricks and walls to make me feel like I had my own place in the world, but they never had that power.
A house a huge part of that white picket fence dream. It’s one of those pieces of the puzzle when we are trying to complete the picture of “having it all.” And while I am so proud of Nick and I for working so hard to get to the point where we are able to financially take this step, I am more proud that we have reached the point in which we are becoming the family who will live in this home. And to me, that feels more like having it all.
So armed with this knowledge, I am going to keep trying to create a home (even though I mostly feel like a little girl dressed up in her mom’s high heels, pretending to be old enough to do this). I am going to continue to print photos and find pieces to make each room our own. I will keep shoveling the driveway and eventually plant flowers so that the outside will look nice from the street. I will clean and fold and prep and nest to make this house as comfy and cozy as I can manage.
But through it all I will remember that, at the end of the day, it is just a house.
And I will reach for my people when I need to feel home.