Coming Home

In such a transitory time, how can we truly feel at home?

For me, the word “home” used to be synonymous with “Vancouver.” Before starting school at Queen’s, it seemed unimaginable to leave my home city on the West Coast surrounded by the ocean, the forests, and the people I love. My city and I have a special love affair that has remained unbroken and unparalleled. Its cafes hold memories of countless brunches and its parks keep my secrets told in confidence in the dark of night. My city never lets me down. My favourite spots remain the same despite the passage of time and my own growth. I find comfort in its familiarity. At the end of the summer when it was time to start my first year at Queen’s, I found myself reluctant to leave.

I spent the subsequent year at Queen’s riddled with homesickness. I wished I was in Vancouver, the only place I thought I could ever feel at home. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my first-year and the lifelong friends I made, but Queen’s felt more like an extended summer camp than a new home.

It was during second-year that my definition of home started to shift. I moved into a tiny unit in a narrow brick house with my three best friends, and for the first time, I really had a “home” at Queen’s. This physical manifestation was a step in the right direction, but I still wasn’t fulfilled. It was the little things that transformed this narrow brick house into a home. It was the times I ate too much Thai coconut curry, got jump-scared by my housemates over a dozen times, and significantly improved at Mario Kart. I made unforgettable memories and found comfort in the arms of incredible people I consider more like family than friends.

Over my February reading week, I went home to Vancouver and for the first time, I desperately wished I was in Kingston. At some point, in between my house’s bi-weekly banana bread baking, and playing with my housemate’s newly adopted fat-tailed African gecko – Queen’s had become home. I had been so busy that I didn’t even realize it was happening. It is not necessarily that Kingston is home, rather it is the community of extraordinary people that surrounds me that make me feel at home.

I’ve come to realize that I have outgrown my definition of home. As I open new chapters in my life that take me cross-country, and potentially internationally, I must adjust “home” to encompass more than just the physicality. Now, home is a feeling. This feeling may come from being in a place I feel safe, or it may come from being surrounded by the faces of those I love. Regardless, I can cultivate this feeling in more than one place.

For the first time in my life, I have two homes and despite the excitement, it poses some unique challenges. For one, I have started to find myself in a perpetual state of homesickness, always yearning for somewhere else. The end of the semester was simultaneously exciting as I would be going back to Vancouver yet also devastating because I would be leaving Queen’s. I have discovered that having two homes is a blessing and a curse, but I am learning to balance it.

Having two homes is a blessing and a curse,

but I am learning to balance it.

In such a transitory time, I find that months can go by in a blink of an eye, yet sometimes weeks can seem unending. Time feels different in this in-between-stage of life as we walk the line between full-fledged adulthood and the somewhat organized chaos of our teen years. It is particularly easy to let time slip by while doing nothing in particular. Despite my bucket list and long talks with friends about the things we will do, the execution seems to be lacking. Then suddenly, I blink and I’m back at my other home, not having cliff jumped in North Vancouver like I promised I would. Or, not having barbecued in Victoria Park like my housemates and I vowed to do in the Spring. Then while looking out of an airplane window, I regret not having done enough in one home as I am whisked away to the next. I feel as though I never have enough time in one place.

So, here is my new strategy to balance this unpredictable, unstable, ephemeral phase of life. Instead of looking into the uncertain future or mourning what is not, I focus on the now. I don’t look ahead, nor do I look back. I look around me at what is. I enjoy the now and live in the present, in whatever home I currently am in. I don’t just write buckets lists, I live them. I love the people around me and make long-lasting memories with them every day. Although there will always be people and places I miss, I shelve that yearning, as I know soon, I’ll be back in my other home in the blink of an eye. Instead of resisting the transience, I welcome it. Thrive in it. I embrace the fluidity of my confusing life and take comfort in the multiplicity of possibilities that each day brings.

Instead of resisting the transience, I welcome it.

Currently, I am back in Vancouver, my first home and the home of all my firsts. I will miss it at the end of the summer, but for now, I will enjoy it. I will have bonfires at Wreck beach and go on hikes in Quarry rock. I will eat a full plate of nachos at the Jericho sailing club, and probably feel sick after. I will grocery shop in Granville Island market and watch the sunset from my little porch. I will do everything and anything I want in my beloved city. Then, at the end of the summer, I will come back to Queen’s and live a whole new bucket list, bringing with me all the lessons I learned from the summer.  

This is a promise to my home and all my homes to come. I pledge to love my homes while I’m there and carry them with me in my heart as I leave. For this is the wonderful thing about my new definition of home. Though people move, and places may change, a feeling can last forever.

 

 

To accompany this article, we have a special “Coming Home” playlist

created by Megan Fanjoy, another one of our incredible online contributors.